Group forms to spur Internet telephony

A coalition of vendors has announced the creation of the Voice Over IP (VoIP) Forum in a bid to spur telephony on the Net.

Seeking to accelerate the growth of Internet telephony, a coalition of vendors has announced the creation of the Voice Over IP (VoIP) Forum.

Initiated by networking giant Cisco and VocalTec, an Internet phone software maker, the forum aims to create and drive deployment of a set of standards to ensure compatibility between Internet telephony products, from hardware to software to networking, according to VocalTec officials. "We'll see quicker Internet telephony being adopted because of better, well-addressed standards," says Elon Ganor, chairman and CEO of Israel-based VocalTec.

Forty companies have joined the forum so far, including Dialogic, 3Com, Creative Labs, Micom Communications, Microsoft, Nortel, Nuera Communications, Vienna Systems, Voxware and US Robotics, company officials say.

Though some impediments to Internet telephony remain, including regulatory issues and technology challenges, vendors' agreement to work together for common standards is crucial to furthering Internet telephony, according to Jeff Pulver, analyst with Pulver.com, a consulting firm in Great Neck, NY.

VoIP "represents a group of competing companies who've gotten together to agree on standards," Pulver says. "It's very important," and is good news for users, because their co-operation will move Internet telephony forward, he says.

VocalTec officials say that the VoIP forum will work toward an implementation agreement that incorporates and extends the existing standards of the International Telecommunications Union H.323 interoperability standard and industry-accepted codecs. Codecs compress audio, video, or graphics files for efficient transmission and then decompress the files for multimedia playback.

VocalTec's Ganor says that although H.323 was an important step, the standard does not address all the issues relevant to telephony, such as call management.

"The VoIP goal is to complement" H.323, addressing those issues which it does not encompass, Ganor says.

Though the exact workings of the forum have yet to be decided, the group will probably do its work through two different types of meetings, held monthly, according to Ganor. One type will have a broad strategy and management focus, and the other will be organised around workgroups on a given subject, such as call management, officials said.

VocalTec's North American subsidiary is on the Web at http://www.vocaltec.com/.

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