Europe Slips Toward SIP

Europe's carriers are committed to converged networks and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) as the future platforms for their infrastructures and services, but the timeframe for introducing the technologies on a broad scale has not yet been determined.

That much was clear at last week's VON Europe conference, which was attended by as many service provider representatives as those from vendors, a clear sign that voice over IP (VOIP) is now at the heart of carriers' agendas as well as suppliers' marketing plans.

And while some of those European operators are still at the drawing-board stage, others have made significant progress with their plans. Among the Tier 1 carriers, the most aggressive has been BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA), which last week outlined its plans for a converged SIP-based network over which it will offer multimedia services to fixed and wireless users (see BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project). Not that BT has been bowled over by the vendor hype over SIP: It recognizes that, as a protocol, SIP is still in short trousers. Paul Reynolds, the CEO of BT Wholesale, the division in charge of building the carrier's 21st Century Network (21CN), says SIP is "the key technology for network integration," though there's still a lot of development work to be done. "But nothing stands still. What will help make SIP a more mature technology is the demand [from major carriers] for it to be a more robust play."

That demand is also spurring the adoption of SIP among companies hoping to win a slice of BT's capex spend on its next-generation network. Only today, Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI), which was last week named as the softswitch supplier for BT's consumer VOIP trials, announced it has added SIP capabilities to its softswitch (see Marconi Adds SIP to Softswitch).

But while carriers recognize the technical and financial benefits of SIP, as do analysts (see Heavy Reading Sees Money in SIP), not all are rushing to adopt it -- such as those already using legacy protocols to offer IP services like VOIP. In Italy, for example, triple-play pioneer FastWeb SpA, now merging with its parent eBiscom SpA, has recorded great success with its IP telephony services based on the protocol still most commonly used for VOIP, H.323 (see eBiscom Reports Strong Q1 Growth, FastWeb Piles On the Users, and eBiscom, FastWeb Merger Approved ).

So will FastWeb migrate to SIP? Voice services manager Paolo Tavazzani says that for the its 400,000 customers, "voice is still the benchmark, and customers demand 100 percent availability and toll quality," and that the H.323 gear has delivered that so far. But there are interoperability issues with H.323, so the carrier is looking at deploying SIP.

In Tavazzani's view, "no single protocol is enough." SIP is not yet mature, and there are problems with the SIP-over-ISDN connections. That's a matter of concern for FastWeb, because an ISDN link would most likely be used by non-FastWeb customers engaged in a videoconferencing session with a FastWeb customer. It's an issue that's likely to be resolved in the near future, and FastWeb's transition to SIP is a case of when rather than if, though there will be a mix of protocols for some time to come.

Tavazzani was also on hand to offer advice to other service providers about whether traditional voice or data networking staff should be given the responsibility for converged services such as VOIP. He says it's vital to have the involvement of staff with experience of traditional voice services, though it's equally important to have a team with both POTS and data service experience, which is the mix, he claims, that FastWeb has.

There was a smattering of other announcements at the event, the key ones being:

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 1:35:11 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP What is immature about SIP? The danger here is that carriers fancy it up with all sorts of QoS garbage, and it becomes as complex, expensive and un-interoperable as H.323. Keep it simple.
technoboy 12/5/2012 | 1:35:09 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP Can you provide an example of a large SIP based offering that is working without some form of QOS being implemented?
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 1:35:08 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP No. I don't know what happens that is bad, however I assume it has to do with traffic pile-ups hurting delay and jitter and hense voice quailty.

I know NTOP is rolling out voice service over telco wires and I believe that is SIP. Some of those deployments could reach 100k users. I also suspect SONSE uses SIP in their softswitch product, but admit to not having done that homework fully. Finally, there are the LVLT and ATT. Now that you have asked, I will have to look.
aswath 12/5/2012 | 1:35:07 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP I think Vonage is SIP-based and as far as I know there are no QoS mechanisms.
technoboy 12/5/2012 | 1:35:03 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP Well not exactly

They use a couple of different services one of which is from internap. Internap provides a very interesting performance based routing solution that interrogates all of the Tier 1 backbones of which they have connectivity to and using some customized application that can extrapolate the best path through the internet on any given providers backbone. The best part is that a company like Vonage can gain access to multiple networks without owning any of them. Second, they do have in the device that is placed at the home the ability to prioritize voice traffic over data so that the voice traffic will egress from home first. Is this end to end QOS? I would say not but it is also not a best effort plug and play solution either. Finally, Vonage offers no SLA to its end users for call quality so it is a matter of you get what you are willing to pay for.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 1:35:01 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP What issues are being referred to here? Good question.

The telco guys are damning SIP with faint praise, ala the "SIP is still in short pants" comment, with no specific follow-up. What really may be happening is that they do not like SIP for business reasons, so they make it sound bad. Then they can race to our rescue with a "better" solution (read: clumky proprietary) to sell.

I am just trying to pin these guys down as to what they really see wrong with SIP. It just might be the correct, lightweight, interoperable solution to use. They would hate that.
dljvjbsl 12/5/2012 | 1:35:01 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP The article mentions issues with SIP over ISDN.

I can think of issues that would arise with this but they have more to do with the inflexible nature of ISDN than SIP. It is no wonder that ISDN failed dramatically whereas SIP is succeeding.

SIP and ISDN do different things. What issues are being referred to here.
technoboy 12/5/2012 | 1:35:00 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP The telco guys hate SIP because it has the very real potential to do what the FCC has been unable to achieve. Open phone service to real competition. While the SIP protocol is still somewhat immature it is far enough along that people realize the potential and the implications of mass adoption going forward.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 1:34:41 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP I suspected that.
Packet Man 12/5/2012 | 1:32:26 AM
re: Europe Slips Toward SIP Your comment:
The telco guys hate SIP because it has the very real potential to do what the FCC has been unable to achieve. Open phone service to real competition.

My comment:
You are 100% correct....SIP puts the logic and intelligence inside the telephone set. SIP will make VoIP Telephony easy to use like email, http, etc.... espescialy since DNS is around. I want to call you? Easy... I click on a WWD (world wide directory) page, find you listing, click on your link, and your phone rings.

The days of the telco are over. In 10 years all will be around are carriers, ISPs, and ASPs. The days are being nickled and dimed for every little feature and service are finished. Revenue from toll, local, and goodies like Caller ID, Call Waiting, Voice Mail, Conferencing Calling, are finished. All we will be paying for are a few cost recovery services like 911, and all of that will go to the ASP/911 providers.

.....and I can't wait...bring it on.

SIP is to telco as the PC was to the typewriter industry, as Napster/Kazaa is to the music industry.

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