All of the glitches may not yet have been worked out of Voice over IP (VoIP) infrastructure technology. But enough momentum has built up behind this technology that carriers and network equipment manufacturers in Europe, North America and Near Asia are moving aggressively to make converged networking the undisputed mainstream telecommunications infrastructure by the end of this decade.
BT's Two-Year VoIP Plan On Track
BT appears to be on schedule to move the bulk of its United Kingdom traffic to an end-to-end IP infrastructure by 2006. The company has unveiled an impressive schedule for its first wave of cutovers. The initial stages in the migration pilot will involve the bypass of the core PSTN network link between two major network nodes at Cambridge and Woolwich, England. An extension is planned later to a Faraday exchange in London. Starting in October, BT voice calls between these network nodes will be carried using IP packet technology rather than the circuit switched technology used on PSTN.
The next stage of the pilot involves new equipment at 18 exchanges in South East London, Kent, and East Anglia -- which are connected to network nodes in Cambridge and Woolwich. Multi-service access nodes (MSANs), will carry voice and data services onto the core IP-based network, initially for 1,000 customers by January 2005. (The initial customers for the services will largely be BT employees.) The pilot will extend to 3,000 customers in June 2005, prior to large-scale migration in 2006. The infrastructure technology will come from Marconi, Alcatel, and Siemens.
Bell South Rolls Out Enterprise VoIP Services
Across the pond, Bell South has a market trial of business class network-hosted VoIP services in Columbia, S.C., and Miami, Fla. If the trials succeed, the company expects to develop offers in additional cities in the Southeast later this year. Bell South executives are banking on latent demand for converged network services from companies leery of building their own corporate VoIP environments. To ensure security, data integrity, and quality of service (QoS), the voice and data traffic on this service will be carried on a private regional IP backbone -- not the public Internet -- and will be marketed as part of a portfolio of business services including equipment-based services (IP-PBXs) and Centrex IP (a network service announced last month).
Canada's Penson Taps Global Crossing For Voice And Data IP Networking
Up in Canada, Global Crossing struck VoIP gold in the fertile financial services industry -- an economic sector starving for operational efficiencies. Penson Financial Services Canada tapped Global Crossing IP VPN Service to carry mission-critical financial services voice and data communications in North America. Just how mission critical? Penson clears and executes the processing of trades and other transactions. The move stacks up as a serious show of faith in VoIP as an industrial strength technology.