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Arbinet Joins Peering Party

Arbinet-thexchange Inc. (Nasdaq: ARBX) Tuesday launched a new VOIP peering service and said it has established a non-profit clearinghouse for VOIP numbers. (See Arbinet Launches VOIP Peering.)

The new peering service, called “PeeringSolutions,” provides a third party through which "member" VOIP providers can share access to each other's VOIP phone numbers and call routing information, Arbinet says. When service providers want to connect a VOIP call via the Internet (without the PSTN), it must access a numbers database to discover the IP address of the VOIP phone being called. But carriers will only make those IP addresses available to other networks with which they have peering arrangements. (See VOIP Peer Pressure.)

Arbinet says its new service allows VOIP service providers to establish direct peering relationships and exchange VOIP traffic with many other providers through a single connection, without needing to connect with peers one-by-one. Carriers can also buy full termination service with mobile and fixed-line operators using the same interconnect, Arbinet says.

PeeringSolutions member providers upload their VOIP phone numbers and routing data from their own numbers database into a common database at Arbinet. With Arbinet’s help they can then administer the sharing of that information with other carriers with which they wish to peer.

PeeringSolutions has signed up three VOIP providers for its service: Broadview Networks Holdings Inc. , Flow Jamaica, and NexVortex.

A number of database managing companies such as Neustar Inc. (NYSE: NSR) and VeriSign Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSN) have moved into the VOIP peering business in the last five years, all of which are trying to sign up more service providers (and hence more VOIP numbers) than the others.

Today, small groupings of peered VOIP providers (often referred to as "VOIP islands") are scattered over the globe. But most VOIP users remain largely isolated from VOIP users in other networks, and must rely on the PSTN to connect calls to one another. (See VOIP Peering.) Aware of this fact, Arbinet says it is establishing a “neutral, industry-managed registry for sharing VOIP-accessible phone numbers and routing information” called the “Spider Registry,” which it hopes will connect all of the various VOIP peering services.

Peering services (including PeeringSolution) would contribute the VOIP numbers in their own numbers databases to the Spider Registry. They would also be able to "borrow" and resell access to the numbers to their member carriers at a price of their choosing. This would allow members of different peering services to peer with one another.

For instance, if a VOIP provider member of Peering Service A wants to peer with a VOIP provider customer of Peering Service B, the two peering services would exchange those sets of numbers through the registry, enabling the two providers to peer. Arbinet refers to the peering services in that scenario as "registrars."

The registry is run by a separate entity called Spider Registry, Inc., which Arbinet says is a "non-stock, not-for-profit industry group." That group, Arbinet CTO Steve Heap says, will be administered by a board of directors comprising peering industry execs.

Heap believes Arbinet's multi-tiered approach to VOIP peering is completely different and better than that of existing peering services that operate their own numbers databases.

“They all say the same thing: ‘Give your numbers to me, I’m neutral and I will eventually be the biggest; you can query me and it will all be OK,’ ” he says.

The Spider Registry database will launch in June, and contains no numbers yet, according to Heap.

It isn’t quite clear why Arbinet and the Spider database are in a unique position to provide the repository that links together the databases of other VOIP peering services such as Neustar Inc. (NYSE: NSR) and XConnect Global Networks Ltd. But it might not matter in the end -- Heap says his company did it because somebody had to.

“It’s a federated model and it’s an attempt to tie all the VOIP islands together,” says Heavy Reading analyst John Longo. “There are other attempts as well, but I think what they’re trying to do is kick-start this process... This is at least a stepping stone to one industry standard."

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