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HD Communications: The Next Step for VoIP

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August 17, 2009

HD Communications: The Next Step for VoIP

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor


Though Internet-based telephone calls, through VoIP, made communications less expensive, quality inevitably suffered as services became cheaper, the editor of an emerging Web-based publication that covers HD communications told TMCnet in an interview.

 
According to Doug Mohney, editor-in-chief of HD Connect – news and information place for “The HD Connect Project,” covering events, press releases, committee information, and ultimately a vendor-neutral archive of all things HD – a focus on HD communications in the form of wideband codecs and high quality voice naturally must follow the rise of Internet telephony as an audio communications platform.
 
“VoIP made things cheap, but did it make voice quality better than the PSTN?” Mohney told TMC (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani in an interview printed in full below. “When you start shopping for the cheapest minutes, you start losing quality of service somewhere, be it in the compression of the phone call or the transcoding back to the PSTN or something else in the multi-hop shuffle to save a couple of pennies per minute.”
 
According to Mohney, enterprises, the upper-end of the Fortune 500, want HD because they want better productivity out of their conference calls and their phone calls. More people are doing business on conference calls to save money and be green, but C-level executives want maximum efficiency out of their time.
 
During the interview, Mohney also described his extraordinary foray into the IT and IP communications space.
 
Their exchange follows.
 
Rich Tehrani: How did you get involved in the communications technology industry?
 
Doug Mohney: I had been working with modems, PCs, workstations and servers in college and my first few formal jobs after graduation, so I got a good grounding in the IT side of the world from day one. Unfortunately, I got caught in the “Unix beat VMS” wave in ‘93 and got RIF’ed out of my job as a manager of University of Maryland’s Computer Aided Design lab.
 
A few months later I’m sitting down with Doug Humphrey – this larger than life guy, white bird on his shoulder – in his ramshackle offices above a Chinese restaurant in Greenbelt, Maryland and end up working at DIGEX as employee number 10 or 11 and a lot of other strong-willed and smart folks making peanuts for a ringside seat at the dawn of the commercial Internet. John Todd (News - Alert) – employee 11 or 12 and now working at Digium – and I were doing sales of all things, which only goes to show how good Humphrey’s Jedi mind tricks were.
 
We had to explain to people back then A) What the Internet was B) Why you needed an email address and C) What a Web site was. It was an age where a 45 Mbps T-3 was the fastest connection you could get, period, and the telcos were just starting to pull fiber.
 
Three years later, DIGEX has its first IPO, Humphrey is shopping for boats with his millions, and you don’t have to explain to anyone what a Web site is. Awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience – and I didn’t have to move to Silicon Valley to do it!
 
I got deep level exposure to the nuts and bolts of the Internet, dealing with all the flavors of the phone companies, and how a high-tech startup companies goes from humble beginnings to an IPO. Kids these days take things like wireless phones and Facebook for granted. Twitter crashes and people act like it’s the end of the world, but it is just another step on that company’s road to maturity.
 
RT: How does your company benefit from communications technology?
 
DM: The best way to think of HDConnect is as a trade association to promote the use and interworking of HD communications. If VoIP is “dead,” then what’s next? For many, the “next” is HD communications in the form of wideband codecs and high quality voice. So our role is to promote HD and get vendors in sync on ways they can work together
 
VoIP made things cheap, but did it make voice quality better than the PSTN? When you start shopping for the cheapest minutes, you start losing quality of service somewhere, be it in the compression of the phone call or the transcoding back to the PSTN or something else in the multi-hop shuffle to save a couple of pennies per minute.
 
Enterprises, the upper-end of the Fortune 500, want HD because they want better productivity out of their conference calls and their phone calls. More people are doing business on conference calls to save money and be green, but the C-level guys want maximum efficiency out of their time. Global Crossing is doing some one-off solutions for HD conferencing now and expects to have a more automated solution out soon while Verizon Business expects early adopters out of its customers in 2010 with general adoption happening in 2011.
 
RT: What changes are you expecting in your tech budget next year? Why?
 
DM: I believe 2010 is going to be a good year for the communications market, period. And I think it is going to happen for three reasons. I think there’s going to be some spend from the stimulus money. With about $7.2 billion in circled for broadband buildouts in unserved/underserved areas, there’s going to be spending on hardware and services to put everything in place.
 
The 4G war in North America will be in full swing in 2010 and no matter what flavor you like – WiMAX or LTE – both sides are going to be pushing to expand network coverage and sign up customers. I think Verizon is playing for keeps with its deployment of LTE like it did with FiOS and I think it wants to take a chunk out of AT&T (News - Alert). Regardless of the carrier, supporting LTE will require AT&T and Verizon to beef up their backhaul and core networks, so that’s more hardware. So that’s the second reason.
 
Finally, we’re going to see enterprises move out of defensive mode and into proactive spending for things they put on hold over the last 12 to 18 months as the economy tanked. Some of this will be natural end-of-life replacement, some of this will be ROI-based, especially with older gear and services, and some of this will be forward upgrading in anticipation of IPv6 and HD voice and other services coming up
 
The world runs out of Internet addresses under the classic IPv4 scheme in about 24 months. After that, larger users are going to get squeezed to move to IPv6 whether they like it or not and that’s going to drive a cycle of upgrades and hardware purchases over the next three to five years as people first try to gateway their way along between the two numbering schemes and then move forward and do things the “right” way.
 
RT: President Obama has said the $787 billion economic stimulus package will help the economy this year. What do you think about that? In your view, how will that money impact the communications market, if at all?
 
DM: How many communications projects are shovel-ready? There’s not a lot of asphalt in Cisco or Juniper, my friend.
 
OK, now that we’ve got the cheap joke out of the way, I think you’ll see some uptick as I noted before from stimulus money. People will find a way to steer that money into their PBX (News - Alert) or key system replacement/upgrade, plus there’s another $7.2 billion – less overhead and mapping the country’s broadband usage – of grant money for broadband.
 
RT: Following up on that, we’re now formally starting the process of broadband stimulus money allocation and spending. What do you think of that activity? What effect will broadband stimulus have on technology spending, if any?
 
DM: You know the cliché about “The speed of business?” The broadband stimulus money is being allocated at the speed of government.
 
A lot of pundits and media types expected the U.S. government to go out and spend stimulus money as fast as a Fortune 500 corporation would during the dot.com era, but the only time when the bureaucracy steps to the side is in time of crisis or war. While an economic crisis hurts a lot of people, it’s not big enough to get the rules waived.
 
Before he was put in charge of managing national broadband policy at the FCC (News - Alert) in June, Blair Levin did a presentation before the Congressional Internet Caucus back at the beginning of the year and he discussed all the issues linking into stimulus money and broadband. You can’t spend money too fast, or you’ll get waste and fraud – and mad taxpayers and Congressional committees, I might add. You have to work within existing structures because you want to the money to go out fast, so you can’t be creative with programs– and I think that’s the point that a lot of the pundits don’t get. They want creative and they want all the bases hit and they want the money NOW NOW NOW, but those aren’t the rules in the current game.
 
I think when the FCC presents a holistic, encompassing national broadband policy next year, that’s when life will get really interesting. The stimulus money is a one-time spending patch to get jobs generated and to extend broadband to underserved/unserved areas, but there’s going to be a bigger national roadmap coming out that I anticipate will provide a multi-year sustainable roadmap.
 

Learn more about HD Connect at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Don’t wait. Register now.


Follow ITEXPO on Twitter: twitter.com/itexpo

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan







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