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VoIP Deregulation

OK, so the first Federal Communications Commission decision on regulating Voice over Internet Protocol is in -- and to little surprise, the commission came down on the side of unregulated services. Does that mean it's time for enterprises to chuck their PBX equipment and boost their CAT-5 purchases tenfold to meet the new world head on?

Not so fast. For one thing, the FCC's decision in cutting loose's Free World Dialup service is rather narrow. The FCC said only that services that are purely IP-based don't equate to standard telco services, which must adhere to access and other regulations. The decision doesn't even address VoIP services that tap into the public circuit-switched network.

A network as widespread, entrenched, and reliable as circuit-switched voice service isn't going away anytime soon. Plus, while network managers may have come to know and love Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), VoIP still can't touch circuit-switching for quality of service. Market research firm IDC figures that of the $1 trillion that it forecasts for global telecom spending through 2007, two-thirds will continue to go to standard voice purchasing.

Still, the VoIP train is steaming ahead full speed, and the market is jumping aboard with rollouts ranging from internal enterprise products (think a voice-and-video intranet) to voice conferencing for dedicated IP phones. VoIP has even gone open source: Woburn, Mass.-based Pingtel Corp. is releasing an open-source VoIP enterprise software package based entirely on SIP.

The onslaught of products and decisions is likely to cause some headaches, but this kind of stress is nothing new for network managers.

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