Radcom Aims to Assure Enterprises of VOIP Quality

SAN MATEO (06/23/2000) - A network management tool designed to measure the quality of VOIP (voice over IP) calls may make telephony applications more palatable for the enterprise.

Unwilling to put up with erratic quality levels on voice calls, most enterprises so far have balked at tapping service providers to begin providing VOIP capabilities.

But Radcom, a network-management tools vendor that cut its teeth testing networks for Cisco Systems Inc. and Lucent Technologies Inc., recently introduced Omni-Q. This new network monitoring system is composed of a series of probes that checks for network hot spots that could lead to garbled voice packets.

Omni-Q is targeted at new-breed service providers that are successfully selling smaller businesses on telephony applications.

Those service providers are scrambling to get enterprises interested in VOIP.

By identifying potential trouble spots in a network, providers will soon be able to promise VOIP SLAs (service level agreements) on telephony applications.

"Quality has been a real barrier to entry on the enterprise level," said Anthony Wiley, president of Mahwah, New Jersey-based Radcom.

To compensate for the congestion that can lead to lowered-quality VOIP calls, service providers are now "throwing bandwidth at the problem," but that costly solution is not a permanent fix, Wiley said.

Ron Westfall, an analyst at Current Analysis, in Sterling, Va., agreed that Radcom might have come up with a solution to putting voice traffic on networks, using gateways that interface with the PSTN (public switched telephone network).

Enterprise and service providers alike now measure the quality of both traditional voice and VOIP calls. But often they must rely on subjective rating scales and systems that involve human operators ranking quality based on their own perceptions.

Radcom's Omni-Q relies on a software algorithm dubbed Perceptual Analysis Measurement System (PAMS), which was developed by British Telecom to rank call quality. In development for eight years, PAMS is now being used more widely in the commercial market to evaluate telephony and mobile calls.

Radcom is considering a way to offer Omni-Q capabilities as a service rather than a product -- which may appeal to enterprises tinkering with new VOIP gateways and products. "We'd like to turn it into a service, but right now it is a product that network management teams place in POPs (points of presence) and network operating centers," Wiley said. The service model would also appeal to Radcom carrier customers such as GTE, which has traditionally been a wholesaler of VOIP but wants to get into more enterprise-level applications, officials said.

Radcom officials claim that the company is first to market with a tool that can measure VOIP call quality, although other vendors may be eyeing similar technology, Wiley said.

Competition may come from a set of companies actively selling products to measure the quality of traditional voice calls. Those companies include Ectel, based in Tikva, Israel, and Ameritec, in Covina, Calif.

An ear for quality

To rank the quality of telephony calls, Radcom's Omni-Q uses British Telecom's PAMS algorithm, some characteristics of which are listed below.

Based on the human hearing system

Measures speech quality and amount of listening effort requiredAllows repeatable prediction of customer perception of callsValidated with more than 25,000 speech filesCorrelates error descriptors and quality predictions.

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