Softswitch Forum Goes Squish

The International Softswitch Consortium (ISC) formed at the peak of the Internet bubble four years ago to promote IP telephony, has halted all its development work and will focus instead on “evangelizing,” consortium officials say.

To reflect its new mission, the ISC has changed its name to the International Packet Communications Consortium (IPCC), which it says covers all elements of packet communication, including applications and transport media, not just the call control softswitch part (see ISC RIP, Now IPCC).

“The industry and the economy has changed, and our membership base is more concerned about next-generation network services, not just softswitches," says Lily Sun, executive director of the IPCC.

Furthermore, there is a second group known as the Multiservice Switching Forum, founded a year earlier than the ISC in 1998, that has stolen the lead on interoperability testing for softswitch call agents and gateways. “This was one of the reasons we decided to get out of interoperability,” admits Sun. “The MS Forum is very good at this… It didn’t need two of us." The MS Forum had not returned calls for comment by press time.

Given the almost nonexistent market for combined IP-based voice, data, and video services today, it’s a surprise either of these forums has made it this far. Still, this technology represents one of the brightest hopes for communications gear makers looking for new ways to make money once the depressed corporate spending market recovers.

”People are saying VOIP [voice over IP] is a failure when it was the economy that failed, not the technology,” says Sun. That may be so, but only 3 million office phones based on IP technology had been sold globally by the end of 2002, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Andrew Odlyzko, director of research at the Digital Technology Center at the University of Minessota believes the quality of VOIP technology is improving, making it a more viable option for enterprises. "In 1995, to make a VOIP call you had to make five regular calls," says Odlyzko. "Now you can pick up your office phone and it works normally."

It is the IPCC’s new mission, says Sun, to educate the industry about the economic viability of packet services. “At least 80 percent of our work will be in evangelism," she says.

The IPCC has about 80 paying members, including many of the major telecom equipment suppliers.

For a detailed report on what’s happening in the market for next-generation packet-based voice services, see the recent Light Reading Report: Softswitches: The Gateway to Profitability.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

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