You may already be a VoIP user, Part 1

We want to issue a warning to anyone who uses long-distance - especially those who believe voice over IP (VoIP) doesn't work: You may already be a VoIP user and not even know it. In fact, some industry sources suggest North American long-distance service providers are carrying nearly half of all long-distance voice traffic over IP.

How could this happen? Well, it really dates back several years to when carriers were trying to solve the problems caused by the rapid rise in Internet traffic, especially all the dial Internet access users. Remember that the voice telephone network was originally designed based on some traffic engineering assumptions. These rules stated that no more than one in 10 telephone users would make a call at the same time, and that the average call would be three to five minutes in length.

Then users started to connect modems to the plain old telephone service (POTS) network to dial up their ISP (Internet service provider). And these users didn't just stay online for a few minutes. They stayed online for an hour or more because the ISP offered flat rate billing and the calls - made to a local ISP point of presence - were also free of usage charges.

This resulted in the Internet users tying up the POTS voice switch ports on two ends in defiance of traditional voice engineering rules. On the user end, the calling party's modem held the voice port locally. The ISP, taking advantage of free incoming calls, tied up the POTS switch ports calling into the ISP modem pool pretty much nonstop 24-7. These connections, in turn, tied up the POTS switches in ways the original Bell System engineers had not imagined.

So what does this have to do with turning us all into VoIP users? Stay tuned - we'll continue next time.

Steve Taylor is President of Distributed Networking Associates and Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Webtorials.Com. For more detailed information on most of the topics discussed in this newsletter, connect to Webtorials.Com, the first Web site dedicated exclusively to market studies and technology tutorials in the Broadband Packet areas of Frame Relay, ATM, and IP.

Larry Hettick is Vice President of Consulting at TeleChoice, Inc., a market strategy consultancy for the telecommunications industry. Hettick has 18 years of experience in telecommunications and data communications marketing and product management for service providers and equipment vendors.