VON EUROPE - SIP takes centre stage

Internet, networking and telecommunications companies used the Voice on the Net (VON) Europe 2000 trade show here this week to rally around SIP (session initiation protocol) as a key building block for deploying voice, video, conferencing and other multimedia communications services over the Internet.

Initiated by Stockholm-based Hotsip AB, an international group of companies, including US-based networking vendors 3Com, Cisco Systems and Swedish carrier Telia AB, announced here Tuesday the formation of the SIP Forum (http://www.sipforum.org/), an industry group dedicated to promoting technologies based on the protocol developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Telia, the former monopoly carrier that was recently privatised in part, also announced that it has given SIP addresses of its 27,000 employees in Sweden, who can now be reached directly via telephone calls based on IP (Internet protocol) dialed to their e-mail addresses.

Using SIP servers and IP telephones provided by 3Com, calls to the SIP addresses can automatically be directed to regular telephones via a SIP gateway, Telia said.

"SIP is going to be vital in many different areas," including advanced communications services that can transparently span over multiple unified networks, said John Yoakum, emerging business champion at Nortel Networks, in a speech Wednesday.

Driving the adoption of SIP and other convergence technologies is the coming of age of VoIP (voice over IP) and other packet-based communications services.

Worldwide VoIP network infrastructure spending is expected to surge from $US1 billion this year to $7 billion by 2003, providing a huge business opportunity to vendors, said Ami Amir, chief executive officer of Tel Aviv-based Radvision.

Amir, however, also voiced concern over the fact that the industry to date has failed to deliver more turnkey VoIP systems, which he said has held back use of the technology.

"Nobody wants to be a systems integrator," said Amir. "There are not enough companies committed to providing totally integrated systems."

The lack of choices has allowed companies such as VoIP specialist Clarent to capitalise on the situation, Amir said after his speech. "It's not that Clarent has better or cheaper products than anybody else, it's just that they offer a turnkey solution. It's a no-brainer."

In addition, the industry also needs to make a better case for why businesses need to adopt packet-based communications, Amir said.

"The real business reasons for deploying packet-based communications have not been defined yet," he said.

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