Voice-over-IP is being touted as the leading contender in Telstra's strategic technology planning, paving the way for the Australian telecom carrier's potential move into IP-based telephony services.
Hugh Bradlow, Telstra's director of technology, strategy and research, says the carrier believes IP (Internet Protocol) will become a mainstream technology for use in future telephony services.
Telstra is scheduled to complete a strategic technology assessment study by the end of this year, known as the Data Mode of Operations.
"I think it's fair to say the (study) will lead to our network being 'packetised' in some form or another, but as to which technology we select there are a number of choices," Bradlow says.
"I think voice-over-IP will be a mainstream carriage (technology)," he says. "But it probably won't be the only technology."
Bradlow said Telstra is also considering other data carriage technologies such as ATM, IP-over-ATM, packet-over-SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and packet-over-WDM (Wavelength Divison Multiplexing).
He said Telstra will continue to rely on other technologies such as frame relay and ISDN as the "underlying transmission technology still needed in an IP world."
Paul Budde, an independent telecommunications analyst, says if Telstra adopts a voice-over-IP strategy, it will allow the carrier to develop new data-based IP technology services. For example, he says IP telephony will allow companies to route all long-distance calls over data networks, giving individual users the ability to guarantee voice traffic travels via the cheapest carrier, a solution known as least cost routing.
"It's a very important development not only from the price point of view, but because you can manipulate the data," Budde says. "It's far easier to do that with IP technology than the current telephone technology."
Budde believes within the next few years between 35 and 40% of all long-distance voice traffic will travel over data networks. "It's very important for Telstra to be part of that," he says.
News of Telstra's planning coincides with a recent announcement by AT&T that it will commence a voice-over-IP virtual private network (VPN) service trial in early 1999.
The trial is aimed at taking steps towards improving the voice quality of Internet-based telephony.
However, Telstra's Bradlow says from the carrier's position, voice over a dedicated IP network, rather than the public Internet, is more likely to reflect Telstra's strategy as it offers better quality of service at this stage.
Telstra's Data Mode of Operations study recognizes the telecom carrier's belief it must move to a digital network and all its network traffic is set to be dominated by data in five years.