VoIP Peering Fabric a 'Stealth' Business
Stealth Communications has launched an ASP (definition) market for its Voice Peering Fabric (VPF), providing an open marketplace that offers the promise to VoIP providers of interconnection without going through the PSTN network.
Critics of the VPF, however, don't believe that the peering network poses a significant threat to the incumbent telcos.
The VPF functions as a private voice Internet allowing participants to establish peer-to-peer connections over a distributed Ethernet network that works as a meeting point or exchange for VoIP network traffic. By establishing network connections with other VoIP providers VPF participants are able to route their network traffic around the PSTN.
The newly launched VPF ASP Market allows participants to transparently buy and sell services with each other. Additionally, several new features have been added to VPF including caller ID, 411, 8xx services, local number portability (LNP) and SS7 (Signaling System 7). Stealth Communications claims that the VPF allows enterprises and carriers to manage and access multiple services with a single VPF Ethernet connection without the need to provision disparate dedicated TDM connections.
According to Shrihari Pandit President & CEO of Stealth Communications, Inc the Voice Peering Fabric has over 90 members and last year its VPF Minutes Market processed over 2.4 billion minutes "This year we are on track to process over 9 billion," Pandit told EnterpriseVoIPplanet.com.
The VPF also operates its own ENUM database registry (definition), which is intended to allow VoIP calls to stay within the IP domain on the VPF.
"The VPF ENUM Registry last year processed over 46 million calls and today it holds over 6.5 million reachable telephone numbers," Pandit said. "These are all user endpoints and not number ranges like in other ENUM databases."
The VPF is however not without its critics. One of those critics is Packet Clearing House Research Director, Bill Woodcock. Packet Clearing House is a nonprofit research institute that focuses on the Internet traffic exchange area. Woodcock asserts that the VPF version of ENUM doesn't have anything to do with the IETF ENUM standard and that there is anything nothing peering-related about the VPF.
"The theory is that it's a market, not an exchange, for toll bypass," Woodcock told EnterpriseVoIPplanet.com. "But since it's not using ENUM, it's not actually interoperable with anyone's systems, so nobody can actually hand off calls to or through it."
However according to Stealth Communication's Pandit, the Voice Peering Fabric (VPF) does in fact refer to the IETF ENUM Standard 3761 (originally 2916).
"Our ENUM implementation conforms to the ENUM standards as set forth and interoperates with a number of devices such as Asterisk, Cisco Gateways, SIP Express Router (SER), Nextone Session Boarder Controllers, and more," Pandit said.
According to Pandit, the VPF ASP Market was created "to simplify access to critical databases and gateway services our members required in order to interact with the PSTN." "The benefit to our members was they were able to reduce costs and now are able to offer PSTN-like services (411 - Directory Assistance, CNAM - Caller Name)," Pandit said. "The next feature that is being worked on is E-911 - at the same level/quality offered by traditional telephone companies."
Is VoIP peering a threat to telcos?
Stealth Communications VPF is not alone in the market attempting to create cheaper non-incumbent telco access. Earlier this month Arbinet announced its own version of paid VoIP peering. Though companies like Aribnet and Stealth Communications VPF route traffic without the help of incumbent telcos, Jupiter Research Analyst Joe Laszlo does not see any VoIP peering offering really posing any kind of serious threat to the incumbent telcos anytime soon.
"Even if every VoIP provider peered up with every other VoIP provider, the sum total of VoIP-to-VoIP calls is going to be a tiny fraction of total telephony calls for years," Laszlo told EnterpriseVoIPplanet.com.
Laszlo explained that even if VoIP services represented 10 percent of US phone lines in the next five years, the average VoIP customer will still have a calling pattern that's distributed similarly to the way overall lines are distributed. That is, there's no reason to expect VoIP telephony customers are more prone to call other VoIP telephony customers, on average. So 10 percent of the calls made by those 10 percent of callers, or 1 percent of all calls, end up being eligible to bypass the traditional network.
Nonetheless, VoIP peering is a good thing in Laszlo's opinion, as it hopefully saves VoIP carriers some money, though it's not a complete solution for VoIP carriers. "It doesn't save them from needing to interconnect with the traditional network," Laszlo said. "And it doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of calls that originate on VoIP networks are going to be terminating on the traditional network for a long time yet."