Monday, March 29, 2004

Brix Launches Self-Service VoIP Quality Testing Site

Brix Networks has launched -- a free, self-service, VoIP quality testing portal that enables users to independently measure the quality of their VoIP connections via a quick, user-initiated test call.

The site is powered by the Brix System VoIP performance management solution, which consists of distributed hardware test points, called Verifiers, that communicate with, and are managed by, the BrixWorx central-site software application. The system tests signaling quality (signaling path performance), delivery quality (media transport performance), and call quality (overall call experience and voice clarity).

Visitors to execute a JAVA applet that initiates a test phone call using the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) call-signaling protocol. Appliance-based Brix Verifiers emulate multi-line phones that answer these test calls and measure the quality of the "conversation." Verifiers are currently installed at locations in Boston and San Jose, with additional sites anticipated in the coming weeks.

Users are provided with a standard Mean Opinion Score (MOS) for call quality, as well as diagnostic latency, packet loss, and jitter metrics for each call.

Global Crossing Expands its VoIP Portfolio

Global Crossing announced three new enterprise VoIP services that delivered over its private MPLS network. The new offerings include:

  • "VoIP Outbound": Global Crossing will accept enterprise outbound IP voice traffic for long distance and international long distance to more than 240 countries worldwide. The IP voice traffic will be transported across Global Crossing's private VoIP platform for off-net TDM completion via the local PSTN. The service will be available in the summer of 2004 in North America, with phased rollouts to other regions.

  • "VoIP Toll Free": Global Crossing will accept originating TDM Toll Free traffic, converting it to IP for transport across Global Crossing's private VoIP platform for IP completion to enterprise locations. The service will be available in the summer of 2004 in North America, with phased rollouts to other regions.

  • "VoIP On-net Plus": Enterprises will be able to connect all of their locations to Global Crossing and send IP or TDM on-net traffic for completion to more than 500 cities in 50 countries without traditional long distance and international long distance charges. Call detail records (CDRs), dial plan management and performance tracking will be available via Global Crossing's self-service online tool, "uCommand". Availability is slated for Q4 2004 in North America.

In addition, Global Crossing will manage the enterprise voice service within the premises router, administrating the customer's internal dial plan, and monitoring the quality and availability to meet the performance SLAs.

The new offerings enhance Global Crossing's existing VoIP On-net Transport service, which enable enterprises to use an IP VPN to eliminate traditional long distance and international long distance charges for their managed dial plans. This service has been available globally since May 2003.

Alcatel and Fujitsu Selected for Sea-Me-We 4 Cable

Alcatel and Fujitsu were chosen to build a new terabit capacity Sea-Me-We 4 submarine cable network, which will span nearly 20,000 km and link 14 countries from France to Singapore via Italy, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia with 16 landing points.

Sea-Me-We 4 will have more than 32 times the initial capacity of the previous Sea-Me-We 3 system, which entered service in 1997.

Broadvox Deploys Sylantro for Consumer/Business VoIP

Broadvox is using Sylantro Systems' hosted VoIP communications solution to address the consumer VoIP market and the business IP Centrex market through the same platform. Broadvox, which deployed hosted communications services for business users in 2002, launched residential services in three cities in the Midwest earlier this month. Nationwide deployment is planned for 87 major markets by the end of 2004. Broadvox is the first announced Sylantro customer to deploy the consumer offering.

Netrake Upgrades Session Controllers for Residential Services

Netrake has enhanced its existing nCite session controller platforms to allow carriers to securely offer residential VoIP services. The new features in Netrake's nCite session controller include its new Hosted Firewall/NAT Traversal and User Mobility service. With the Hosted Firewall/NAT Traversal service, carriers who already have the nCite session controller deployed for carrier-to-carrier peering can now offer residential VoIP services on the same platform. The Hosted FW/NAT service recognizes registered residential end devices and performs the necessary security features to allow only authorized access to home VoIP networks. Netrake said its session controllers support high call processing volumes and over-subscription ratios required for a scalable residential voice service offering.

Level 3 Communications is using Netrake's platform for its wholesale, residential VoIP offering.

Netrake's User Mobility feature allows enterprise users to securely access their work VPNs and/or VoIP services while traveling, working from home, or on mobile devices. After performing deep packet inspection into the signaling and media, the Netrake nCite will recognize the user and securely authorize access back to the VoIP network.
  • In January 2004, Netrake, a start-up based in Plano, Texas, secured $20 million in fourth round of funding for its session controllers for VoIP interconnection. Prism Venture Partners led the round with return funding support from existing investors TL Ventures, Austin Ventures and Trinity Ventures. Netrake has now raised more than $70 million in capital to date.

VocalData Hits the 20,000 Residential VoIP Subscriber Mark

VocalData announced that its customers are now delivering residential VoIP to more than 20,000 subscribers using the VocalData application server. VocalData's residential VoIP customers include Panasonic in cooperation with NTT COMWARE in Japan, which offers residential VoIP services to cable TV subscribers; PRIMUS Telecommunications Canada, which is making residential VoIP available in Canada via any high-speed Internet access connection; wholesale providers like Kancharla and regional providers like US Sonet and Ceristar in the United States. Additionally, new customers in Latin America, Australia and New Zealand have all begun to deploy residential services.

Motorola to Acquire Quantum Bridge for FTTP

Motorola agreed to acquire Quantum Bridge Communications in an all cash transaction. Financial terms were not disclosed. Quantum Bridge is a supplier of FTTP solutions based in Andover, Massachusetts. Motorola said the acquisition complements its existing multiservice technologyhttp://www.motorola.com
  • Quantum Bridge was founded in 1998 and is headed by company founder Anthony Zona.

VON Keynote: Alcatel -- Migrating from VoIP to MMoIP

"We are at the dawn of the rich, media-connected world," said Vickie Yohie, Senior Vice President, Multimedia Services Delivery, Alcatel, speaking at the Spring VON conference in Santa Clara, California. But it is not just about VoIP, she said, as VoIP "is just one face of a larger market shift to user centric Multimedia over IP (MMoIP)" -- technology that is transforming the way enterprises and service providers communicate.

Why MMoIP? Yohie argues "because we can" and "because there is genuine market enthusiasm to do so." Over the past few years, the pain points inside most large enterprises have changed -- the corporate workers of today complain most about a new set of collaboration challenges, most of which are rooted in the lack of coordination between communications channels. These issues, argues Yohie, can be addressed by user centric business services delivered using MMoIP.

Consumers are also ready for value added services. While last year can be remembered as the Year of the Consumer Bundles, Yohie said tremendous pressure is now building among operators to differentiate those consumer bundles using unified messaging. Among broadband households with a home business, some 60% are interested in unified messaging, according to a survey commissioned by the company..

VON Keynote: The FCC Enters the Year of VoIP

"If last year was the year of spectrum, this is the year of VoIP," said Robert Pepper, Chief of Policy Development at the FCC. In the first three months of this year, the FCC has issued an historic declaratory ruling on VoIP (the petition), initiated a Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement (CALEA) rulemaking proceeding on VoIP, and launched a far-ranging Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) concerning "Everything over IP" (EoIP). In addition to the petition (now resolved), there are also at least five other declaratory rulings still pending on critical VoIP questions (AT&T, Level 3, Inflexion, Vonage and SBC).

This burst of regulatory action is not unexpected. Pepper said the FCC had been watching VoIP with interest for years but had decided not to jump into action in order to give the technology time to evolve. Its hand was forced however, when the state of Minnesota and others began their own regulatory actions against Vonage and other nascent VoIP providers.

Pepper said the policy basis for the current "light touch" regulatory approach rests on the strict legal definitions of "telecommunications," "telecommunications service" and "information service". But, as he pointed out, the really big questions remain. Who regulates the new broadband enabled IP world? What, if anything, gets regulated? How much should a local carrier be paid for terminating a call? How can the long standing social goals supported by past policies be preserved? What about the legacy economic model and cash flows? What implications are there for broadcasting rules or cable TV rules? What about rural issues? What about international jurisdiction?

Every year, the nation's universal service fund (USF) pays out approximately $673 million for low-income programs and about $3.0 billion to support high-cost rural services. There are additional programs to provide Internet access to schools and libraries, as well as to support rural health initiatives. The USF is paid for by taxes to interstate switched access minutes, which are now in rapid decline. Pepper said the old model is clearly not sustainable -- however, by his measure, VoIP is not principally to blame. Wireless substitution is having the largest effect. "Why would anyone pay for residential long distance service when you can make the call for 'free' using your mobile phone?"

"What we need now is to separate economic regulation and social policy," said Pepper, "and to find new ways to fund the social programs." A second critical policy step, he added, is to reform/rationalize the many regulated economic relationships between carriers.

VON Keynote: Jeff Pulver -- Nothing is Impossible

"It feels like 1999 all over again," said Jeff Pulver, describing what he said called a second coming of VoIP. Attendance at the Spring VON conference being held this week in Santa Clara, California is back to its pre-bubble days -- over 3,500 attendees are expected, including a majority of carriers. In his opening keynote address, Pulver observed that venture money is flowing back into VoIP start-ups again and there are even rumors that IPOs will be possible once again by early next year. The feelings of optimism can also be traced to the FCC's recent declaratory ruling, which found that Pulver's Free World Dialup service is an "information services" and not subject to traditional telecom regulation. It's clear that the FCC finally understands the issues involved. Meanwhile, major new VoIP products and services continue to hit the market every day.

Nevertheless, Pulver insisted that it is still "early days" for the VoIP industry. He noted that there currently exist fewer than 200,000 consumer VoIP accounts in the U.S. compared with some 23 million broadband users. The market has not yet "crossed the chasm" and the industry is still in the early adopter phase. Pulver commented that what the market really needs at this point is for someone like Steve Jobs to come up with a really great consumer iPhone -- something that is not just a plain old phone reworked for IP, but instead a breakthrough product for mainstream consumers.

Pulver also observed that the prospect of a re-write of Telecom Act of 1996 will be a two-edged sword for all of us. It is not evident how non-incumbent VoIP service providers can survive -- clearly it won't be on price alone. Major carrier are already coming to market with feature-rich VoIP offerings. Pulver also acknowledged the tough social policy issues raised by VoIP: CALEA cannot be ignored, E911 is critical, support for people with disabilities is necessary. He echoed calls for Universal Service to become Universal Broadband.

Pulver is proposing the concept of Globally Accepted Service Principles (GASP) to guide the industry. These would include the Four Freedoms outlined recently by FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell; a code of best practices for 911; a code of best practices for CALEA; and a vision of open peering with other service providers. To drive these principles forward, Pulver is establishing a global, non-profit organization to develop an IP Communications Memorandum of Understanding. The first meeting will be held this week at VON.
  • On 12-Feb-2004, FCC Commissioners voted 4-to-1 to approve a Declaratory Ruling that's Free World Dialup (FWD) service is neither a “telecommunications service�? nor “telecommunications,�? and therefore not subject to traditional telephone regulation. The FCC also declared FWD to be an unregulated information service that is subject to federal jurisdiction.

  • Pulver's FWD allows users of broadband Internet access services to make VoIP or other types of peer-to-peer communications directly to other FWD members, without charge.

  • FCC Commissioner Michael K. Powell said the ruling "formalizes the Commission's policy of “non-regulation�? of the Internet and, in so doing, preserves the Internet as a free and open platform for innovation. Just as important, today's ruling removes barriers to investment and deployment of Internet applications and services by and ensuring that Internet applications remain insulated from unnecessary and harmful economic regulation at both the federal and state levels."

  • On 09-February-2004, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell issued a challenge to high-speed Internet providers to adopt a set of four voluntary “Net Freedom�? principles:

  • Freedom to Access Content. Consumers should have access to their choice of legal content.

  • Freedom to Use Applications. Consumers should be able to run applications of their choice.

  • Freedom to Attach Personal Devices. Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes.

  • Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information. Consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans.

Metaswitch and Wave7 Deliver VoIP over FTTP

Tennessee's Jackson Energy Authority (JEA) is partnering with Aeneas Internet & Telephone, the largest ISP in western part of the state, to offer voice services over FTTP to residential and business customers. Aeneas has selected MetaSwitch's VP3500 Next Generation Class 5 Switch for its VoIP services. JEA has chosen Wave7 Optics as its FTTP network vendor. http://www.metaswitch.com

VoicePulse Announces Plans for Encrypted Phone Service

VoicePulse, a broadband phone service provider, will use a telephone adapter from Sipura Technology to secure its customers' broadband phone calls using encryption. The encryption capability use technology built into the telephone adapter as well as modifications to VoicePulse's own softswitch, which was developed in house.

VoicePulse said that unlike other consumer VoIP offerings to date, its service will protect customer phone calls by encrypting the portion that travels over the public Internet -- a frequent request by its residential consumers and "an absolute requirement for business users."

VoicePulse is believed to be the first to announce plans to offer this level of VoIP security. The capability is expected to be implemented in Q2 2004. http://www.voicepulse.com

SBC Teams with UPS to Launch Wi-Fi Service

SBC Communications plans to install its forthcoming "FreedomLink" Wi-Fi service in thousands of UPS store locations across the U.S.. The SBC Wi-Fi service will also be offered in domestic Mail Boxes Etc. stores, which are part of the UPS retail network. The deal is expected to bring the FreedomLink service to more than 1,500 The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations by year-end, with installations continuing through 2005. Currently, there are approximately 3,300 The UPS Store locations, and the total U.S. network is projected to reach 5,000 by 2007. Pilot programs are also under way in Europe to assess the expansion of Wi-Fi hot spots at more than 1,100 Mail Boxes Etc. centers that are located outside the U.S.

SBC said it now plans to deploy more than 20,000 FreedomLink hot spots in 6,000 venues over the next three years and to create an integrated Wi-Fi and 3G wireless service.

SBC has also signed a Wi-Fi roaming agreement with Wayport, giving its customers access to roughly 800 more locations nationwide. Wayport is also assisting SBC companies with the deployment of FreedomLink service in The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc.

Level 3 Announces Wholesale VoIP Deal with 8x8

Level 3 Communications, is supplying its wholesale VoIP services to 8x8. Specifically, 8x8 has purchased the (3)VoIP Local Inbound and (3)Voice Termination services from Level 3. 8x8 serves residential and business customers through a suite of offerings under the Packet8 and Packet8 Virtual Office brands that include broadband telephone service for residential customers, consumer videophones and virtual office PBX solutions for small businesses.

(3)VoIP Local Inbound service, which rides Level 3's softswitch platform, enables VoIP service providers to establish a local presence in 73 markets across the U.S., while deploying and maintaining their application servers at a single location. The (3)Voice Termination service, originally launched in December 1999, enables PTTs, inter-exchange carriers, enhanced service providers, cable operators and other companies to terminate calls in the U.S. and abroad.

iBasis DirectVoIP Service Simplifies VoIP Interconnections

iBasis introduced a service designed to simplify and accelerate carriers' implementation of direct VoIP interconnections to the iBasis global network for international voice service. The company said its new DirectVoIP service provides rapid interconnects with international VoIP deployments in a matter of days, in contrast to activation periods typically measured in weeks for interconnects to TDM telecommunication carriers. iBasis provides enhanced call signaling control using standards-based H.323 and SIP, allowing operability to multi-vendor gateways, gatekeepers, proxy servers, session border controllers, softswitches and IP phones. Network peering is provided using signaling interoperability through protocol proxies and session border controllers.

PointOne Selects Convedia's IP Media Servers

PointOne Telecommunications has deployed and standardized on Convedia's family of IP Media Servers. PointOne's pure VoIP network, which offers connections to 90 U.S. cities and several international markets, currently processes more than half a billion calls per month. Convedia's Media Servers are being used for PointOne's SIP-based Prepaid Calling Card Service and provide a comprehensive media processing platform for PointOne's other IP telephony enhanced services. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Convedia media servers consolidate the functions of traditional announcement servers, interactive voice response (IVR/VRU) units, conference bridges, messaging platforms and speech platforms into a multi-service, open standards compliant solution for network and enhanced services media processing. http://www.convedia.com

Telica Names More Softswitch Customers

Telica named four new customers for its next generation softswitching platforms:

  • North Rock Communications -- a full-service fixed wireless CLEC that delivers a range of Internet, wireless, telecom and e-commerce products and services to both business and residential customers in Bermuda. North Rock also provides international long distance service to several other local carriers on the Island. Telica's platform supports both Class 5 local calling and Class 4 tandem trunking applications simultaneously. North Rock is Telica's 20th VoIP customer. In addition, they are one of more than 30 service providers utilizing Telica's softswitch to deliver Class 5 services to subscribers.

  • LataOne -- a California-based enhanced services provider (ESP), which offers services such as 800 calling, prepaid and postpaid calling cards, and other voice and data solutions targeted toward businesses.

  • GSC Telecommunications -- part of the Carolina Online family, which delivers a full range of service offerings, including local and long distance services, across both TDM and IP access to residential and business subscribers throughout North and South Carolina.

  • Socket Telecom -- a facilities-based communications provider, which offers local and long distance services to a range of businesses throughout Missouri.

Net2Phone and Quintum Join Forces for Enterprise Solutions

Net2Phone and Quintum agreed to jointly market Net2Phone's VoIP enterprise services with Quintum's Tenor VoIP MultiPath Switches and gateways. Under the multi-year agreement, Net2Phone and Quintum will integrate VoIP services with enterprise VoIP MultiPath Switches and market the solution as a bundled telephony offering. The bundle will include a configuration "wizard" that can be used with new models of Tenor VoIP equipment to simplify the user experience and allow customers to easily set their gateways to offer low-cost calling over the Net2Phone network.

Quintum boasts 250,000 IP ports already deployed. It claims a distribution group of over 200 resellers spanning 70 countries. http://www.net2phone.com

Callipso Selects Sonus Networks for VoIP

Callipso is deploying Sonus Networks' Open Services Architecture (OSA) in its national network to deliver a range of VoIP services, including origination and termination, as well as SIP-based enhanced services. Specifically, Callipso is implementing Sonus' core trunking solutions including the GSX9000 Open Services Switch, the Insignus Softswitch and the Sonus Insight Management System. Callipso is currently deploying the Sonus infrastructure in five cities throughout the U.S. to enable a SS7 interconnection capability that will support nationwide voice services as well as SIP-based enhanced services such as prepaid calling, web-based audio conferencing and, in later deployment phases, hosted IP Centrex and IP PBX offerings. Future network plans call for the deployment of Sonus' Network Border Switching solution, which will enable Callipso to interconnect or "peer" with other domestic and international carriers using VoIP rather than circuit switching. Financial terms were not disclosed. http://www.sonusnet.com

CloudShield Raises $20 Million for Open Platform

CloudShield Technologies, a start-up based in Sunnyvale, California raised $20 million in third round venture financing for its multigigabit, open network services platform. CloudShield's open network services platforms eliminate the reliance on fixed-function ASIC-based appliances for network application and services delivery. The company said network solution developers, systems integrators, and network operators could port existing applications from network appliances and develop new applications to secure, monitor, measure, and control network traffic, by using its open platform.

Leading the round was first-time investor Foundation Capital. Additional investors include Paladin Capital Group, ComVentures and TPG Ventures .
  • CloudShield was founded in October 2000 by Peder Jungck, who previously was CTO of (acquired by CMGI). The company is headed by Rusty Cumpston, who previously was CIO of ONI Systems.