A voice over IP: the future of telephoning lies in the Internet
April 4, 2004
BERLIN — The idea is not really new: conversations over the Internet
using special software and a headset.
Yet until now real success with telephoning over the Internet
has proved elusive due to a paucity of bandwidth. This has made
consumers wary about investing in the technology.
Yet thanks to DSL and other new technologies, the Voice over
Internet protocol (VoIP), as Internet telephony is known, is seen
as the future of telephoning.
The best known of the numerous programs for Internet telephony
is probably Microsoft's NetMeeting. It comes included with
Microsoft Windows and can also be downloaded for free from the
In NetMeeting, two parties converse with one another via a
loudspeaker and microphone that are attached to the computer's
sound card. A Webcam can also be included in the circuit if
desired, letting the parties see each other.
The developers of the online swapping software KaZaA have put
out a VoIP program called Skype. Users of Skype can call other
users over the Internet, provided that they also have the software
installed on their machines. The software is available for Windows
2000 and XP.
The sound quality of VoIP has not yet reached the level that
consumers expect from traditional telephoning.
"The problem is the travel time for individual data packets,"
explains Manfred Breul, a telecommunications consultant for the
Information Technology association BITKOM in Berlin, Germany.
Unlike the traditional telephone network, where a portion of the
lines are reserved for the duration of a conversation, Internet
transmissions break the speech into data packets. The conduit is
only used when actual sounds are made.
"With other kinds of data, you don't have any problems, but with
telephoning there can be problems with breaking speech into data
packets," Breul says. Newer Internet protocols have been successful
at reducing the transmission flaws that can result, insofar as they
ensure that telephony data is marked for expedited handling.
Yet the recent world-wide boom in broadband connections has led
some makers to seek options beyond computer-to-computer calling.
Software maker Indigo Networks, for example, has started offering
Internet telephony that it claims is as easy to use as a regular
phone in Germany.
Once registered with Sipgate.de, a pre-configured Voice-over-IP
telephone is hooked up to a computer connected to a broadband
connection. The phone costs 99 dollars.
Uncompressed audio files are sent out through the broadband
connection to a conversation server from the Internet telephony
provider. They are then sent out into the normal telephone network.
Just how much a user will save from this process depends on how
it is used. For a German who is often abroad, having a permanent
number that is a local call from Duesseldorf can be an advantage,
since the actual connect is then forward over the Internet to
wherever the user is located, at no extra cost.
Not surprisingly, the developers of the Sip protocol see a
bright future for the technology. Jiri Kuthan, a project leader for
the SIP technology, points out that it offers e-mail and telephony
over one single network.
It appears that the big guns in the telecom industries have
gotten the message, too. "We are developing scenarios for a switch
from previous telephone networks to Voice over IP," confirms
Deutsche Telekom's Wilfried Seibel.
Larry Valez, an analyst with the marketing researcher Meta
Group, sees consumers benefiting in the end. "Telephoning will get
cheaper in the future for everyone," Valez says. –Sapa-DPA
Google rankings scorned [30/03/2004]
Google to offer free email [01/04/2004]
MS battles Hollywood, digital entertainment [01/04/2004]
From spam to spim [01/04/2004]
MS offers $1.6 billion to make peace with Sun [02/04/2004]
The future of telephoning lies in the Internet [04/04/2004]
Navigation made easy: PDAs for dummies [05/04/2004]
Soap on the cellphone as TV goes tiny [07/04/2004]