Optical/IP Networks

Carriers Put VOIP to the Test

Carriers and network equipment vendors aren’t the only ones getting excited over the migration to voice-over-IP (VOIP), as specialist testing companies and systems integrators are piping up, too.

Empirix Inc., located in Waltham, Mass., says carriers are following through on their talk about VOIP and moving to pre-deployment testing. Empirix makes test equipment that emulates a phone call made by a SIP-phone or regular phone to ensure the VOIP gateways and related equipment on the other end are receiving the calls.

”Business is picking up a great amount,” says Gordon Eddy, marketing manager for Empirix. “Before, it was equipment manufacturers buying our gear, but over the last six months business is coming directly out of the service providers.” In the past year Empirix has wrapped up deals with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON), AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and with carriers in Japan.

Eddy says the carriers are wary of putting equipment together from different companies without thoroughly testing it in the lab. “We can prove to them through extensive testing that, for example, a Siemens gateway works with a 3Com phone.” He notes that some vendors have marketing partnerships in place but that these rarely include rigorous interoperability testing that will satisfy the operators.

TekVizion, a specialist VOIP systems integrator in Richardson, Texas, agrees and adds that most carriers are well-educated on VOIP but are struggling with how to integrate new services with the legacy phone network. “We spent at least two years just explaining what VOIP was, going 'round and 'round about definitions -- now that’s over,” says Tracy Venters, VP of marketing at TekVizion. “Today business is steadily increasing, they’re turning side projects into real services."

TekVizion was unable to name any of its customers but claims to have deals with several second-tier U.S. IXCs and long-distance companies.

Another company feeling the VOIP force is Psytechnics Ltd., a small U.K. outfit that sells voice quality testing software to VOIP equipment manufacturers. Among its customers are Empirix, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Malden Electronics, and Radcom Inc. (Nasdaq: RDCM).

“Since September, business has been phenomenal," says Iain Wood, director of marketing for Psytechnics. The company’s only announced carrier win so far is with BTG plc (London: BGC), and given it was spun off from BTexact Technologies, that’s hardly saying much. However, Woods adds that Psytechnics has trial sites with carriers in China, Japan, Germany, and France.

IP Centrex services are the hot ticket right now, he says. “The carriers are saying: 'Just get us through the early days of this VOIP rollout.' ”

Two of the big names in test and measurement circles, Agilent and Spirent Communications, also make test equipment for VOIP networks but were unavailable for comment by press time.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

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