Doings at ITC, San Diego

The Internet Telephony Conference and Expo descended on San Diego’s Convention Center this week, with over 250 vendors pitching their products and services to both enterprise and government net managers – attendees that were expected to number around 9,000 by the time the doors close on Friday. This year’s conference is co-located with two other satellite events: the IMS Expo, devoted to technology and products supporting the IP Multimedia Subsystem, and Call Center 2.0, which is focused on making call centers more efficient and profitable. Conference highlights include:

Back to the future?
Keynote speaker Brian Martin, CEO of service provider 8×8, Inc., opened with some optimistic survey results showing that customer satisfaction with VoIP services is at an all-time high – 86 percent – compared with 74 percent for copper wireline customers, and 66 percent for mobile wireless subscribers. He tempered his optimism, however, as he noted the challenge facing the industry. Martin pointed out that today’s environment is much different from the regulated environment of two decades ago, and warned that VoIP developers and innovators must continually focus on future applications that leverage the benefits of the Internet Protocol – rather than simply replicating wireline features such as E911 and audio conferencing that have been around for decades – if these encouraging results are to continue.

Is your net working?
Before getting too hyped over new innovations, remember that broadband applications, such as video and IPTV, can put extreme loads on an existing data network, with the potential for quality of service to plummet. Several vendors were plying their network analysis and manage tools that keep net managers better informed and in control of their infrastructures. One such was Telchemy, Inc. (Duluth, Ga.), which announced the VQmon/SA-VM Release 2.2, a scalable and compact solution for monitoring the performance of IPTV and IP videoconferencing equipment. This solution now reports the new Telchemy Video Quality Metrics (TVQM), which include video service transmission quality, and video and audio Mean Opinion Scores (MOS). Telchemy is a founding member of the V2oIP Quality Alliance, an industry group of vendors, service providers and industry experts looking to advance the adoption of voice and video over IP by increasing the quality of technologies and implementations.

Quintuple play?
We’ve all heard of double and triple plays in baseball, but now a VoIP organization is pitching ways to better manage and bill for the quintuple play of IP-based services, including broadband, mobile, VoIP, IPTV, and Emerging Content. The Internet Protocol Detail Record Organization (IPDR) is a consortium of service providers, software and equipment manufactures, system integrators, and billing vendors that are collaborating to facilitate the exchange of usage and control data between networking and hosting elements. As part of their work, they have developed the Internet Protocol Detail Record interface, which captures network data usage information, and also produced a suite of IPDR standards, plus a list vendor organizations that have become IPDR-compliant. The IPDR hosted a special conference track at IT Expo, detailing issues surrounding this data exchange, including customer relationships, quality of service for media transmission, consumer privacy, and fraud prevention for new services such as IPTV.

Preparing for disaster
Hoping for the best but planning for the worst was the theme of the Disaster Planning Seminar and Workshop, a three-hour forum bringing together application vendors, resellers, managed services providers, and network managers to discuss how communications contingency plans should be developed. The gathering marked the one-year anniversary of the founding of the Disaster Preparedness Communications Forum (DCPF), an organization that was formed after Hurricane Katrina and other severe storms of 2005, and which is dedicated to educating enterprise managers and end users on the needs for communications continuity planning. A number of prominent vendor companies have joined in this effort, including Cisco Systems, Iwatsu Voice Networks, Quintum Technologies, Shoretel, and Sphere Communications, with support from the Enterprise Communications Association. Three phases of disaster management are recommended: planning, anticipating disruptions of varying degrees, such as a power outage due to a severe fire; business continuity required, which defines unacceptable service levels, and developing a plan to avoid those conditions; and recovery, where the disaster preparedness operations are implemented.

Sysmaster Corporation (Walnut Creek, Calif.) displayed a new line of IPTV products, including the VoiceMaster Content Management and Billing Server, and the Tornado Digital Media Center. SysMaster claims to be the only equipment vendor to offer end-to-end IPTV solutions to its customers.
Spanlink Communications, Inc. (Minneapolis, Minn.), introduced the Spanlink Mobile Supervisor Workstation, a portable, hand-held tool that allows contact center supervisors to monitor, manage schedules, and collaborate with agents. The new product enables supervisors to maintain constant contact with agents from any location with wireless access, including the ability to provide effective coaching and receiving immediate notification of all contact center activity, regardless of their location.
Interactive Intelligence (Indianapolis, Ind.) released an upgraded version of its Customer Interaction Center (CIC) contact center automation software, which includes an enhanced operator console designed to give receptionists, company operators, and contact center dispatchers more effective ways of directing high-volume call flows.
NewStep Networks, Inc., (Toronto, Ont.), unveiled their CSN30 platform for enterprises and small carrier environments. The system converges services across diverse networks, enabling subscribers to have a single number, single voicemail, and other features like corporate extension dialing from the mobile phones they use today.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved

Author’s Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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