When you VoIP, you’re using a device which is significantly different from a conventional circuit-switched phone

VoIP, or voice over Internet Protocol, has been used both as a noun, to describe the technology, and as an adjective to describe products. Now one VoIP provider, Vonage, is also using it as a verb in its radio ads, which quote customers who are “”VoIPing”” family, friends and colleagues. What’s interesting

about these commercials is not all of them promote VoIP as an alternative to the public switched telephone network, but rather as a low-cost second line and long-distance alternative.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, however, sees VoIP as a local service, and says it should be regulated on the grounds that it “”functions as a telephone service.”” (For more information, please see “”Incumbent carriers say they got short end of stick in CRTC decision,”” page 16).

VoIP is definitely a phone service, but to describe an IP phone as practically the same thing as a TDM phone is like saying a car with an internal combustion engine is pretty well the same thing as a vehicle powered by an electric motor. An electric car may look and feel like a gas-powered car, but the inner workings are much different and this will have some effect on performance.

The same goes for phones, and Nemertes Research vice-president Andreas Antonopoulos thinks the industry is doing businesses a disservice by putting voice over IP in devices that look almost exactly like circuit-switched phones. Antonopoulos says users treat IP phones as TDM phones because they look and feel identical, but IP phones are not nearly as secure. (For more information, please see “”Nemertes VP dons ‘evil genius’ hat,”” page 8).

There apparently haven’t been any major attacks on IP telephony networks, but this doesn’t change the fact that IP telephony is not the same as TDM. Many vendors will say something like, “”it’s not about the technology, but about the service.”” This may be true if your job is watering plants, but if your job involves supporting telecom systems, the underlying technology is actually important.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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