I just received this email from Skype’s PR firm…
Here is Skype’s official comment regarding Skype for Asterisk. You can attribute this to Jennifer Caukin, spokeswoman for Skype.
“Skype made the decision to retire Skype for Asterisk several months ago, as we have prioritized our focus around implementing the IETF SIP standard in our Skype Connect solution. SIP enjoys the broadest support of any of the available signaling alternatives by business communications equipment vendors, including Digium. By supporting SIP in favor of alternatives, we maximize our resources and continue to reinforce our commitment to delivering Skype on key platforms where we can meet the broadest customer demand.”
Call me crazy but if I have to pay to integrate Skype into my phone system, where I already have a phone service that I am happy with, why would I do that? Maybe I just want to be able to make/receive Skype calls on my SIP-enabled desk phone? If it doesn’t hit the PSTN why do I have to pay? Seems like an odd approach for a company that has a long history of working around POTS, much to the delight of their users.
Integration with SIP is great, don’t get me wrong, but it would be nice if Skype talked SIP and was ‘still’ free. Seems like a massive oversight on behalf of Skype or am I missing something?
Imagine a new secure P2P (Skype like) offer that also supported SIP in the client. You could use the client software on it’s own (just like Skype) or attach it to just about any VoIP service or phone system for free.
Does it make sense for consumers?
Does it make sense for business users?
Is there room in the market?
Would you use it?
Martyn Davies chimes in…
I would use it, but as a telecom industry insider, I know that I’m not the average business user or consumer. As to whether there is room in the market, I think that depends a lot on what Microsoft do with Skype now that they own it. From a business point-of-view, their efforts are focused around OCS/Lync (and software licenses), so Skype there is not adding to their central proposition. Skype has a lot of users, but produces very little revenue, since the majority just use the free services. As a Skype competitor you would have the same problems getting to the cash.
Skype was really the first company to take VoIP and make it completely trivial to install and use. To do that, they had to take some liberties and deviate from standards (like SIP), so that they could add the magic that made it work from behind firewalls, add security and self-configuration, and integrate video so seamlessly. Like Facebook, once it is clearly the biggest of its kind of services, it becomes the community that everyone must join. I can’t see that another Skype-alike has a way in, unless Microsoft significantly change the rules now.
Businesses are gradually migrating to IP-based platforms and solutions. Frost & Sullivan’s research shows that most businesses that have not yet deployed IP telephony plan to do so in the next few years. But not everyone is ready to make the move. And practically no business is willing to forklift its entire existing infrastructure overnight.
The major holdbacks in IP telephony and UC adoption are typically related to concerns over how to protect existing, unamortized assets and ensure continuity when migrating to new communications architectures. Therefore, most businesses are cautious in their implementation of VoIP and IP telephony and are only gradually migrating individual platforms and sites, thus creating “islands” of IP technologies within the company’s communications environment. SIP trunking helps bridge these islands.
VoIP access and SIP trunking services involve the provision of integrated circuits using VoIP or SIP technologies to enterprises that have implemented premises-based enterprise telephony solutions (Private Branch Exchanges (PBXs)/IP PBXs or key systems). In a VoIP access or SIP trunking scenario, the service provider typically offers local dial tone, long-distance calling, and a limited set of call-management and control features such as extension dialing to intra- and inter-office locations.
VoIP access and SIP trunking services essentially direct enterprise customers toward a path of gradual transition to fully converged, IP-based networks. They allow businesses to enjoy the benefits of IP telephony while eliminating the need to forklift-upgrade their networks. VoIP access services interfacing with a legacy TDM system do require the deployment of a voice gateway at the enterprise premises, whereas SIP trunking services are typically deployed with SIP-based or SIP-enabled enterprise telephony platforms where protocol conversion is not required. Session border controllers (SBCs) may, however, be needed for protocol normalization and security purposes. Typically, VoIP access and SIP trunking services allow enterprises to continue to utilize their existing handsets as well as other TDM voice customer premises equipment (CPE) thereby preventing significant upfront investments.
Increasingly, service providers are bundling VoIP access and SIP trunking services with various network-based communications applications and capabilities, such as hosted auto attendant, voicemail, unified messaging, mobility/FMC or some data services including web hosting, web email, managed security, and so on.
Join Frost & Sullivan and Level 3 for a presentation on sustainable business voice strategies with a key focus on SIP trunking and its benefits to small and large businesses: http://bit.ly/lXeeJw
Today, XO unveiled a new SIP trunking service – XO Enterprise SIP, targeted specifically at large, multi-site enterprises (see press release here). XO is one of the leaders in VoIP access services, including basic VoIP access lines, VoIP trunks connecting with TDM customer premise equipment (CPE), as well as SIP trunks for IP telephony platforms. So far, XO’s converged services have been most successful among SMBs, and so have been most other VoIP/SIP trunking services offered by its competitors. The new service delivers specific benefits to large, geographically dispersed businesses and is likely to boost XO’s penetration in that segment.
One of the key elements of the new offering is the ability for business customers to pool trunks from across multiple sites into one or several primary locations and thus reduce trunking costs as well as potentially CPE costs, if they choose to eliminate some of their branch-office call control and feature platforms. This capability also enables businesses to streamline relationships with local voice service providers. Another key feature of XO Enterprise SIP is its inherent business continuity capability to provide automatic failover from one Enterprise SIP connection to another, ensuring redundant paths to the PSTN in the event that one of the primary SIP connections is unavailable.
Businesses can send voice traffic to the SIP trunking sites either over their own private data networks, a third-party VPN, or using XO’s MPLS VPN service. The availability of these alternatives makes XO’s service one of the most flexible SIP trunking solutions on the market today. However, customers should be aware of the various implications of the different implementation options. In the first two scenarios, XO’s demarcation point is at the trunking site(s), which limits its ability to control the voice network beyond that point. It states, however, that it will still strive to assist its customers with any potential issues related to the private data network and its ability to support real-time communications. If a customer chooses to deploy XO’s MPLS VPN service, on the other hand, XO can assure the quality of service all the way to the switching platforms on the customer’s premises. XO can also offer managed router or SBC (session border controller) services to customers that choose to take advantage of that option.
A second key element in the new offering is the ability for XO customers to dynamically share voice trunks across multiple sites and “burst above capacity” when needed. They can configure communications capacity across their entire network and then the various locations can “borrow” or “lend” unused trunk capacity amongst each other. This feature is particularly useful to businesses with locations in different time zones or otherwise varying peaks and lows in voice capacity utilization. A similar capability was first introduced by Verizon as Burstable Enterprise Shared Trunks (BEST) and has proven quite successful among retail businesses. XO states that it differentiates itself by offering superior levels of service management as well as redundancy at all customer locations. Further, XO can route traffic across sites, as well as to and from other carrier networks in case of a service failure. Finally, it claims advanced encryption capabilities as an additional feature option.
Eventually, businesses using XO’s Enterprise SIP trunking service can choose to eliminate telephony platforms at their branch locations and use the features on the IP telephony platform deployed at headquarters (or another main site). That scenario provides some further cost saving benefits.
XO’s Enterprise SIP service rounds up a portfolio of VoIP services including XO IP Flex, targeted at customers with existing TDM equipment; XO IP Flex with VPN; XO SIP, targeted at customers with IP telephony platforms; and XO One iPBX, a managed, premise-based IP telephony solution.
Similar to other VoIP access/trunking services offered by XO and its competitors, the new service includes unlimited local calling and features such as Local Directory Assistance, Local Operator Services and Directory Listings at additional charges. Site-to-site calling is free as it is managed by the customer’s own data network. One 800-number is included free of charge. Verified Account Codes, Compression, Additional DID’s, Additional toll free numbers, Virtual Telephone Numbers, and Automatic Call Routing (ACR) are available for an additional charge. Customers are required to select an XO long-distance calling plan.
VoIP access and SIP trunking services have finally gained traction after several years of limited market acceptance. Growing IP telephony penetration is a major driver along with rapidly improving interoperability between service provider SIP trunking services and vendor IP telephony platforms. XO itself confirms that, a couple of years ago, its SIP trunking interoperability was limited to Cisco and Avaya platforms, whereas today, it can support a large variety of IP telephony solutions including those offered by Digium, Fonality, NEC, Toshiba, etc. Another key factor driving VoIP access and SIP trunking services adoption at times of a global recession is the economies that businesses can realize by converging access lines and using VoIP for long-distance calling.
Going forward, businesses will continue to seek opportunities to consolidate their infrastructure and leverage advanced technologies for both cost savings and productivity benefits. On the premise, architectures such as Avaya’s Aura are enabling businesses to pool trunks, use abbreviated dial plans across multiple sites, and propagate features across geographically dispersed users in multi-vendor call control environments regardless of the individual feature servers at each location. Service providers such as XO can add further value by ensuring that businesses have access to E911 services as they consolidate trunks and voice traffic. This is one of the biggest challenges with emerging IP telephony and UC architectures.
It is important to note that certain limitations apply to E911 services with both XO’s and other providers’ VoIP services. It is critical that business decision makers take these factors into consideration and review all related literature when choosing a VoIP vendor and/or service provider. Customers should also keep in mind that, in most cases, some additional CPE such as VoIP gateways and/or SBCs will be needed in order to successfully connect XO’s services to existing telephony platforms. Therefore, customers will need to investigate all related interoperability and certification issues. Further, businesses should consider service providers’ geographical coverage in selecting a SIP trunking partner. XO offers services in all 50 states and in 2,700 cities, which is a considerable advantage in delivering services to geographically dispersed businesses.
Finally, while SIP trunking provides immediate benefits, it needs to be part of a long-term communications infrastructure strategy in order for businesses to maximize the benefits of the next-generation technologies they invest in. With vendors and service providers struggling in a down economy, customers gain bargaining power which they can leverage to encourage their vendors and providers to cooperate for greater interoperability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness in delivering new communications solutions.
Enterprisemedia gateways have evolved over the past 10 years. From relatively simple devices with straightforward transcoding and protocol translation functionality they have now become critical network elements and are increasingly incorporating other functionality. While single-purpose, plug-and-play gateways will continue to appeal to certain customers, multi-purpose appliances are likely to become more common as gateway functionality is embedded into other network elements and gateways are enhanced with new features and capabilities.
Over the past four to five years, the gateway market experienced significant growth as businesses IP-enabled their Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) telephony infrastructure in order to realize cost savings on long-distance communications, a practice known as toll bypass, and as they increasingly adopted IP telephony platforms that needed to be interconnected with the public switched telephone network (PSTN). In 2008, toll bypass and IP telephony still accounted for over 80 percent of the total ports shipped, but their share is likely to decline going forward as SIP trunking and application integration drive new demand for gateway functionality.
Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) access and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking services are rapidly gaining traction and are providing TDM and IP customers with significant cost savings by enabling them to converge access lines and reduce long-distance charges. They also provide some additional benefits such as network-based fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), voicemail and auto attendant and voice virtual private networks (VPNs) with abbreviated dialing across multiple sites. Since the majority of the installed telephony equipment is still TDM and interoperability with IP telephony platforms is limited, growing penetration of VoIP trunking services will be highly correlated with demand for gateway functionality.
Internet protocol (IP)-based applications such as contact center, conferencing and unified messaging (UM) have created some new opportunities for gateway vendors over the past couple of years as these applications needed to be integrated both with premise-based telephony infrastructure and carrier TDM networks. Application integration is likely to account for a growing percentage – from 10 percent to about 15 percent – of total ports shipped over the next five to six years.
The gateway market experienced growth deceleration in 2008 due to a number of factors including the beginning of the recession and the maturation of the traditional gateway markets – IP telephony and toll bypass – and the slow take-off of nascent markets such as SIP trunking and UC. In 2009, the market is likely to experience a decline mostly due to the tough economic conditions. Pent-up demand is expected to drive growth in 2010 and onwards.
In 2011 and beyond, the market is likely to continue to grow driven by mass adoption of IP telephony, branch office integration, and solid growth rates in the SIP trunking and UC markets. Due to market maturity and rapidly improving SIP interoperability among vendors and service providers, annual growth rates are not likely to ever reach the heights of previous years and are likely to peak in 2011 and 2012 and start decelerating towards the end of the forecast period.
Enterprise media gateway vendors will face a number of challenges over the forecast period as follows:
•The need to ensure interoperability with multiple CPE vendors and VoIP service providers
•Cisco’s dominant market share and router-based approach, practically limiting all other vendor’s ability to grow
•The need to differentiate in order to remain competitive
Market growth will be driven by the following factors:
•Growing IP telephony penetration will continue to drive demand for enterprise gateways required to connect IP CPE to the PSTN.
•Toll bypass opportunities continue to thrive in some markets where PSTN costs are still high.
•Increasing availability of VoIP access and SIP trunking services will drive demand for gateways required to connect to both TDM and IP telephony CPE.
Market growth will be restrained by the following factors:
•Some concerns over the reliability of IP telephony platforms and the quality of IP voice will slow down IP telephony adoption.
•VoIP access and SIP trunking services have gained little traction so far and are likely to be slow to penetrate the market due to interoperability challenges as well as limited service provider focus and marketing efforts.
•Slow adoption of UC and other IP-based communication applications is slowing down demand for gateways associated with such implementations.
Competitive power is quite unevenly distributed in the enterprise media gateway market with Cisco holding over 60 percent share of ports shipped and close to 70 percent share of revenues in 2008. Cisco has benefited tremendously from its leading position in data networking in tapping into the enterprise IP telephony market. Cisco is likely to lose some share over the next five to six years as independent vendors aggressively pursue new market opportunities.
With IP telephony implementations accounting for over 60 percent of total ports shipped, the rest of the IP telephony vendors (besides Cisco) using their own gateway appliances or cards in IP telephony deployments accounted for over 25 percent of gateway ports shipped in 2008. Each telephony vendor’s share of the enterprise media gateway market is largely determined by its share of IP telephony lines shipped in the same year.
A number of standalone gateway vendors are competing for a share of the enterprise media gateway market. Those include Aculab, ADTRAN, AudioCodes, Dialogic, Edgewater Networks, Grandstream, Multi-Tech, NET, VegaStream, Veraz and others. Each vendor is trying to position itself somewhat differently from the others differentiating either through features and functionality or business model and partnerships.
Given the high concentration of market power and the mature stage of the market, it is not likely that many new entrants will seek to tap into this opportunity throughout the forecast period. It is possible, however, that some vendors in adjacent markets such as Aculab (entered in 2008) and Veraz (entered in 2009) may seek to leverage existing technology expertise or channel partnerships to diversify their portfolio and revenue streams. Going forward, it is likely that existing market participants will look to re-position themselves for continued success in an evolving marketplace.
U.S. competition appears to be heating up in the Small Business (SMB) Internet Phone Service market, but vendors are still wet behind the ears.
Although it may seem like there is no shortage of choices for Business Internet Phone Services most of the service providers are still not delivering IP business phone lines in any way that the consumer can understand.
There is also a misconception that Internet Phone Service and Business Phone Service delivered over the Internet are the same thing, they are not. In fact, they are quite different.
Many of the companies out there are marketing these service as if they are the same thing and many SMBs are being fooled into thinking that this is the case. This could easily spell certain disaster for Small Businesses and does the entire small business community a disservice.
Best efforts Internet phone services have zero Quality of Service (QOS). This includes Vonage, Packet8, Lingo and there are many more. These services should NOT be used as a replacement for your primary business lines.
QOS is an important piece of any Phone Service that many Internet Phone Service providers prefer not talk about, it’s their Achilles’ heel.
Without a guaranteed Quality of Service your provider can not say if your call experience will be mostly good or mostly bad. I don’t care who they are or what they say, there is nothing that any service provider can do today to deliver a reliable best efforts Internet Phone Service unless they own the Internet service as well.
About the only company out there that seems to have done this reasonably well is Cbeyond. Their website says..
Designed with small businesses in mind, Cbeyond offers flexible services and fully-loaded packages that meet your needs. Explore our packages that integrate high-speed T-1 internet access, local and long distance voice service, toll-free numbers, mobile and more— delivering all your communication needs on a single bill.
Sadly, their service area is limited:
* Dallas-Fort Worth
* Greater San Francisco Bay Area
* Los Angeles
* Minneapolis/St. Paul
* San Diego
No, I do not own stock in Cbeyond, but maybe I should buy some considering the lack of competition out there. Especially since their stock price is a mere 30% percent of it’s 52 week high.
Canada is even worse off than the US. Not only is their no Cbeyond but there is no real T-1 infrastructure that’s affordable. Shaw is probably the most competitive in the West for T-1s, but at $400/month it’s nothing a Small Business in Canada would get excited about.
So the question is, who will deliver Business VoIP service for the rest of us? I think there is a huge opportunity here and it doesn’t seem to be something that the incumbents are likely to be all that motivated to pursue anytime soon.
Andy makes some valid points as he ponders the world of SIP without Microsoft. It would seem to me that with many of the service providers bailing out of the softphone services business that maybe the market is either already saturated or that the offers in the market are still not seamless enough for the average user to get excited about it.
From my own experience I know that getting people to strap on headsets or talk into a laptop is not only confusing for the user but even when you get them there the quality usually isn’t that great or predictable, regardless of the softphone you are using. Sometimes this has more to do with the connection and bandwidth and less to do with the softphone. At any rate, I think softphones have a future but they need to be invisible to the user and QOS (Quality of Service) must be addressed.
I think the boys at Microsoft might agree as they get ready to roll SIP Trunking for their new Response Point SIP-enabled SMB PBX. Response Point is probably the best SMB PBX I have had the opportunity to install, configure and play with recently. Btw, the customer I installed this for is loving it.
So, is Microsoft throwing in the towel on the VoIP front? No, I don’t think so. They are likely focusing on what they know best, bundling software with hardware to fill a niche. Response Point is a great example of that.