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September 18, 2006

Putting Quality into VoIP and Video

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief

The V2oIP Quality Alliance launched last week and the goal of this organization is to increase the quality of voice over IP phone calls. Many of the people I spoke with in the organization would prefer the organization be called the Voice, Video Quality Alliance. By the way, that is what the V2oIP acronym stands for.

You might imagine that today, voice quality has improved so much that we don’t need such an organization. But video quality can still improve and this blog entry shows that voice quality may not always be as good as you think.

One last point worth considering is that as service providers and enterprises begin to shift to voice peering, we must realize that quality has the potential to get worse. There are a few reasons for this - increased latency as calls go from one provider to another - session border controllers and security procedures add delay - and transcoding, which basically means converting from one codec to another.

Of course, when using peering we eliminate the PSTN, so we should see gains in voice quality but like everything else over IP - you need to ensure the network is set up correctly to ensure maximal quality.

Another trend I am beginning to see is video peering and as this begins to take hold, quality will certainly also be an issue as video is more bandwidth intensive.

I think the V2oIP Quality Alliance is a positive step towards improving quality in the IP communications world and as more vendors join the cause I hope we can expect higher quality levels in VoIP and video calls.

This release will give some details on the founding members, but suffice it to say there is a smattering of IP communications companies represented from across the industry. Ditech Networks (News - Alert) is involved in session border control and transcoding so they are a natural in this space. Empirix is a big player in testing across networks from call centers to service provider networks so they too are perfect for this group.

Telchemy has been producing products to ensure VoIP quality since before just about anyone else. Global IP Sound, or GIPS, the “Voice Engine” company, powers so many VoIP solutions, such as Skype, they obviously belong in this elite group.

Polycom has such a large share of the IP phone market that they too are a natural fit. The one surprise for me is JDSU - or JDS Uniphase - the high flying company of the optical bubble years. They recently announced an IPTV testing solution, so they are a fit here as well - I am just getting used seeing them play in IPTV.

There are a bunch of other vendors who have joined as well - who weren’t in the release. I am familiar with many of them, such as Coppercom, CT Labs (News - Alert), DiamondWare (News - Alert), Interactive Intelligence, Shunra, MetaSwitch, LifeSize Communications and Sylantro.

OK, so who is missing? Spirent, Ixia, Cisco, Avaya (News - Alert), Nortel, Mitel, Alcatel (News - Alert), Ericsson, etc. But this is a new initiative and we should be happy that these companies have come together to start it. As I write this, there is a rumor circulating that Verizon (or Verizon Wireless - I can’t recall) may be joining this group as well, so that would obviously open this up to lots of other service providers.

So this is a great first step and I hope to see more industry participation in this great cause. The only downside is that voice and video quality are too complex an issue to easily tackle - especially across so many vendor platforms. Of course time will tell how successful this initiative is and even an incremental improvement is better than nothing.

As voice and video transitions to the world of IP communications – it becomes crucial that these communications are of the highest quality. As you deploy voice or video over IP it is essential your vendor is concerned about the quality of these transmissions and works with you to ensure that your installation goes smoothly. Many of the companies in this alliance will be exhibiting at Internet Telephony Conference & Expo next month and this event is an ideal venue to learn more about IP communications. In addition, many of the event’s IP communications conference sessions can get you up to speed on voice and video quality very quickly.


Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC. In addition he is the Chairman of the world’s best attended VoIP event, Internet Telephony Conference & Expo.


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