Telecom Exec: VOIP Is a Pain

A Time Warner Telecom VOIP executive kicked off Supercomm by sprinkling a little cold water on the VOIP business

June 6, 2005

3 Min Read
Telecom Exec: VOIP Is a Pain

CHICAGO – Supercomm 2005 – A Time Warner Telecom Inc. (Nasdaq: TWTC) VOIP executive threw a bit of cold water on the excitement over VOIP at a panel here today, saying that VOIP architectures are more complex, expensive, and difficult to operate than the old TDM systems... and less profitable (see Does VOIP Business Add Up?).

"Everybody thinks VOIP is as simple as putting a server in a rack and turning it on, and it's just not that simple," says Earl Turner, Time Warner Telecom’s senior director of VOIP technology (see TWT Narrows Q1 Loss). “I know this because implementing new VOIP networks has been my life for the last ten years.”

Because there are so many different equipment providers selling individual VOIP point products, building and managing VOIP networks gets very expensive, Turner told Light Reading during post-panel chit chat (see Time Warner Talk Fuels Sonus). “When you start looking at the total cost of ownership of the network, you see that it is actually far more expensive than TDM networks...

“What took 120 years of switching in the TDM world, we are trying to do in two to three years."

Turner said such thoughts can make him so gloomy that he's even considered a career change. “The only people that are going to make money out of these [VOIP] networks today are the systems integrators. If I would leave my job today, I would go and be a systems integrator.”

Turner spoke at a panel titled “VOIP Networks and Services” on the opening morning of Supercomm. His company, he says, is primarily in the business of providing VOIP networks and services for enterprises and institutions (see Time Warner Telecom Touts Wins and TWTC Offers VOIP Business Services ).

Despite such concerns, there is certainly no going back to the TDM world, Turner and panelists made clear. Operators live in a world where they can’t order a Class 4 or Class 5 TDM switch without giving vendors three months notice, a special order, and some explaining. “VOIP is here to stay. I’m a realist; it’s not negative or positive, it’s just what it is today.”

Not that Turner sits around pining away for the days of TDM. He believes operators will eventually begin to make money on their VOIP networks when all the pieces are in place. “The key reason that these networks are being built now is to provide a framework for more advanced services in the future,” Turner told Light Reading.

To that end, Turner urged the 20 or so service provider people in the audience to pay close attention to the services that SIP and IMS technology will enable in the future. “SIP just amazes me -- I’ll bet you five years from now even your fridge will be controlled by SIP.”

Turner advised service providers to begin engineering their networks to dovetail with the IMS architectures that he believes will dominate the future. The next-generation services those technologies enable, Turner believes, will eventually make VOIP networks a solid revenue generator for operators.

But in the near term, operators will suffer the growing pains that new technology brings, Turner says, and they will learn that it is no easy matter. The Time Warner exec says reengineering the telephony network for VOIP is a process of disaggregating the centralized method of switching that exists in TDM architectures and “putting it all back together again.” (See Session Controllers Storm Chicago.)

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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