VoIP hubbub heard over ComNet din

By Phil Hochmuth, Network World |  Networking

The voice-over-IP development machine was running full bore last week at ComNet 2001, with a slew of companies cranking out services and products for enterprise and carrier networks.

Big carriers such as AT&T Corp. and WorldCom Inc. aired plans for voice-over-IP services, while Alcatel SA, 3Com Corp. spinoff CommWorks Corp. and Unisphere Networks Inc. peddled new wares. Others, including Avaya, Cisco and Siemens, demonstrated interoperability at a lab run in part by Network World and open to the 50,000 show attendees.

Security, optical networks and other technologies also were prominent among the 450 vendor displays and 70 sessions, but voice over IP was the biggest attention-getter, for better or worse.

"It's prime time for experimentation of voice over IP by companies, but it's not prime time for mass deployment," said Frank Dzubeck, president of consulting firm Communications Network Architects, adding that large implementations won't take hold until 2004.

"A lot of confidence-building needs to be done and feature richness needs to be developed," Dzubeck said. Common telephony features, such as 911 access or simple conference call setup, are not present in many voice-over-IP service offerings and call servers.

Still, much of the conference had users talking about how to talk over their data networks.

"We're due for a major phone system upgrade," said David Wylie, LAN administrator for the Bank of New York in Harrison, N.Y. "I'd like to see voice over IP in there."

According to research firm Phillips InfoTech, the number of IP PBX line shipments worldwide will explode from 71,700 in 1999 to 5.7 million lines by 2004. Traditional circuit-switched PBX line shipments are expected to drop by 37% during the same time period, but will still out-ship IP in 2004 by more than a half million lines.

Voice-over-IP products on display at ComNet focused on areas such as connecting remote offices with IP-based call servers and quality-of-service (QoS) management for enterprise voice-over-IP networks. Carrier gear for delivering integrated voice and data services to businesses also made its presence felt.

Alcatel announced several new features for its OmniPCX 4400 call server platform, including support for small, PBX-less branch offices using IP phones and a Media Gateway for connecting larger offices (up to 500 users) to a central OmniPCX via a WAN connection. In addition, Alcatel showed off enhanced Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-based software for managing an IP phone network.

Shomiti Systems introduced its Shomiti QoS for VoIP Communications product for measuring the quality and performance of voice-over-IP calls on a LAN. The product consists of a monitoring device, which sits on a network and analyzes traffic flows, and console software for viewing voice-over-IP network metrics.

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