RBOC VOIP Coming in 2004

The VOIP services market is gearing up for some big changes.

If you thought things weren't interesting already, consider this: RBOCs (regional Bell operating companies) are sketching out plans for VOIP services next year just as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is examining the potential for regulation in the market (see FCC Sets Date for VOIP Inquiry).

In the past couple of weeks all the Baby Bells have announced VOIP rollout plans for next year as they try to offset defections to competitors, especially to cable and wireless carriers (see Bells' Hell: VOIP?).

SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) this week took the wraps off a new VOIP service aimed at businesses with up to 250 workers (see SBC Offers Hosted VOIP).

Dubbed PremierSERV Hosted IP Communication Service (HIPCS), it includes traditional telephone services as well as unified messaging, in which voice mail and email can be consolidated in a single inbox, and voice mail can be forwarded like email; find me/follow me, which enables employees to forward calls to a mobile phone, remote office, or another extension; click to call; and conferencing. A plug-and-play feature enables users to plug in their IP phones from anywhere in their networks.

Next up, speaking at the UBS AG global communications conference in New York this week, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) vice chairman and president Lawrence T. Babbio spilled the beans on his company’s VOIP plans for next year.

Verizon intends to offer VOIP to its DSL home users in the second quarter of next year and to business customers later. The two-phase strategy begins with a consumer VOIP offering positioned as a second-line service for DSL users. Verizon will either outsource the service or build the application itself. It will offer several plans for local, long distance, and international calling, as well as free on-net calling. It will allow the user to manage features via the Web, including Web-based voicemail and address book integration. Phase two, beginning in the fourth quarter, 2004, will be a managed network VOIP service with QOS (quality of service), aimed at “work-at-home professionals and small businesses,” Babbio said.

BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) announced in October that it would start offering bundled VOIP services to small to midsized companies (see Nortel, BellSouth Team for VOIP).

And lastly, jumping on Vonage Holdings Corp.'s success beating the regulators in Minnesota last month, Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) announced it would launch a VOIP service in the same state (see Qwest Jumps Into VOIP Hotbed).

Table 1: RBOC Voice-Over-IP Plans
Launch date No. of markets Target customers Price
Qwest Pilot Dec. 2003 Minnesota Consumers, SMEs Not disclosed
SBC Available now 13 States SMEs $29-$39 per month
BellSouth Phased rollout starts 2004 9 States SMEs Not disclosed
Verizon 2Q04 (consumers)
4Q04 (businesses)
Nationwide DSL consumers,
home office
Not Disclosed

At first glance it looks as if this flurry of VOIP announcements by the RBOCs stems entirely from the decision made recently by the Minnesota court judge. The judge agreed to let Vonage offer telephony as an Internet data service, thereby freeing it from various taxes associated with traditional phone services.

But Stephen Kamman, analyst with CIBC World Markets, thinks the transition to VOIP services is not being driven by any sort of regulatory loophole in FCC or state efforts to deregulate data services. "In a nutshell, we expect carriers to buy VOIP on its own merits, not in order to escape the current voice-related regulatory regime,” he said in an investment note issued this week.

Of course, the paradox of all this is that RBOCs may be speeding the demise of their own voice business. But at the same time, VOIP offers them a less capital intensive method of deploying new services and revenue.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

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dljvjbsl 12/4/2012 | 11:13:07 PM
re: RBOC VOIP Coming in 2004
Architecturally H.323 and SIP are almost isomorphic. If you think SIP does not contain POTS semantics, then can you explain why SIP has overlap dialing (cell phones don't have them!)?

The resemblance between the H.323 gatekeeper and he SIP proxy is only superficial. The SIP proxy with its registration and location functions has an entirely different purpose than the H.323 GK. SIP has developed its event service to create features and services that are beyond what is achievable with H.323.

SIP is about establishing relationships among parties and allowing them to create and manipulate the services that are specific to their needs.

H.323 extended the POTS model beyond any user need. Thick standards document on how to create features such as Call Forward on Busy for example, indicated to me anyway that this standards group did not understand what multimedia services are and how they are useful to customers.

The failure of NetMeeting proved that to me. I was told once seriously by product managemnent types that there was no need to develop multimedia features since that had already been accomplished by NetMeeting. I knew that wasn't so even then becasue I observed that no one was using NetMeeting. The company had supplied eveyone with NetMeeting, headphones and cameras. No one used any of it. All the video cameras that I saw had their lens caps firmly in place. No one could discern any practical use for it.

In answer to the issue of overlapped outpusing in SIP, this is a necessary function if SIP is to be gatewayed to the PSTN. A demonstration that SIP is fully capable of creating all necessary gateway functions is essential to its acceptance in the network. SIP has accomplished this with some exceptions.

The E911 issue is difficult for IP telephony with its lack of location information and the unwillingness of some IETF IP zealots to understand the necessity of obeying necessary legal and safety standards also makes this work difficult.
aswath 12/4/2012 | 11:13:07 PM
re: RBOC VOIP Coming in 2004 dljvjbsl:

Can you please clarify some of the points you make in Msg.#31? Just to make it explicit, I am not reopening 323 vs. SIP debate. It is over and nothing to be gained in continuing the debate. But it will be instructive for me to understand some of the points I might have missed. Thanks in advance.


1. The SIP proxy with its registration and location functions has an entirely different purpose than the H.323 GK. I thought 323 also has registration function and can handle the services based on location information. Is that not true?

2. SIP has developed its event service to create features and services that are beyond what is achievable with H.323. In a recent presentation to FCC Henning also mentioned the event services. Why can't we define these event services in H.323? In what way this is different than trigger points in SS7? I am not talking about ease of development; but focusing on logical capabilities.

3. The failure of NetMeeting proved that to me. Is it 323's fault or that at that time people didn't have a need for multimedia and hence the lens caps were shut? Now that Windows Messenger supports SIP, how widespread is its use?

4. In answer to the issue of overlapped outpusing in SIP, this is a necessary function if SIP is to be gatewayed to the PSTN. I am assuming that the gateways interconnect to PSTN using ISDN PRI or SS7 trunks. If that is the case, the GW can send the addressing information to PSTN in en bloc mode. In the reverse direction, even if the address information comes in overlap sending mode, couldn't the GW accumulated the digits and send it to its SIP peer in enbloc mode? I thought the reason to have overlap sending is the desire to maintain the same user interface in the SIP end device as the ordinary phone.
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