Optical/IP Networks

Spirent: Europe Lags on VOIP Testing

LONDON – VON Europe – Europe's major carriers are trailing their North American and Asian counterparts in terms of VOIP deployments, and are still very much focused on maintaining their traditional POTS services, according to VOIP specialists at test and measurement firm Spirent Communications.

Talking to Light Reading at the VON Europe event in London, where the test firm was exhibiting, Spirent's Andy Huckridge says there's been little movement from the Tier 1 players in Europe to date, and that they're still mostly demanding test products for their traditional circuit-switched voice services.

That's in stark contrast to the U.S. market, for example, where all of the major players have announced and even started to deploy significant IP telephony services and are starting to learn about the impact on their networks.

And there haven't been any high-profile niche VOIP players in Europe to match the likes of North America's 8x8 Inc. (Nasdaq: EGHT) or Vonage Holdings Corp., notes Huckridge. Instead, the lead has been taken from triple-play specialists such as France's Free and Italy's FastWeb SpA, which provide bundled voice, data, and video services over IP.

Dave Gellerman, Spirent's VP of service assurance technology, says there's just a little bit of activity in terms of IP telephony testing with Spirent's big European carrier customers, such as BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA) and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT). "They're at the stage where they're educating themselves about VOIP. A lot of what they're doing is exploratory. They're testing the water."

And they're very focused on their plans for converged networks, says Huckridge (who sports what must be one of the industry's longest job titles: Product Marketing Manager, IP Telephony, Performance Analysis, Broadband). Yesterday's announcement from BT is the first major public example of that (see BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project).

"In the converged network, IP telephony would be just one of many services running on the network, and that means new testing methodologies are needed," says Huckridge. "It's no good testing VOIP in isolation, because that's not how it's going to be in the live network."

Gellerman says carriers have to be "testing voice in the presence of other data and considering the impact of those other services. You have to test the quality of IP telephony when it's surrounded on the network by other forms of data traffic. That's an issue for enterprise users, too."

The nature of voice also needs to be considered by the operations staff running the IP networks. "The characteristics of IP voice streams are so much different from other data traffic. Data folk tend to think about their service assurance in terms of network outages, but you can't think about voice in those terms. That has to be considered by the people in the network planning department, too. They need to start thinking differently about what's going onto the IP networks."

Although the converged network concept means a single network to carry all traffic, no matter what type or its origins or destination, carriers still need a backup plan and failover mechanisms. Operators need to test the resiliency of their backup systems, too, otherwise they'll also fall over when they're called into action, says Gellerman.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

Sign In