VOIP applications for businesses, including call center programs, multimedia conferencing and IP Centrex, will be dominant themes at this week's Spring VON 2005 conference. The San Jose show, once dedicated to a carrier audience, now increases its focus on users of carrier services and private VOIP networks, given the rise in usage. Frost & Sullivan Inc. estimates VOIP services used by businesses this year will nearly triple last year's.
Attendance is expected to jump to 6,000, from 3,500 last year, show officials say. Attendees will have 240 exhibitors to visit across 90,000 square feet of floor space at the San Jose Convention Center. Last year, 130 exhibitors took up 35,000 square feet of the Santa Clara Convention Center.
Headlining the show are keynote speakers Vonage Holdings Corp. CEO Jeffrey Citron, Level 3 Communications Inc. CEO Jim Crowe, America Online Inc. CEO Jonathan Miller and FCC Chairman Michael Powell. The chairman, who winds up his stint on the commission this month, is expected to keep up his promotion of VOIP at the conference.
"We must ensure (VOIP) continues to grow in a healthy environment that provides stability and encourages innovation," Powell said in a statement. "Internet voice is the future."
VON sessions will dish up practical advice -- from how to write a VOIP RFP that doesn't box you in to a particular vendor to what businesses should expect in the way of functionality and administrative demands from IP PBXs.
One panel will explore integration of VOIP and Wi-Fi in business networks. Panelist Roger Sands, enterprise development vice president of Wi-Fi equipment maker Colubris Networks Inc., says adding voice to data on wireless networks is not a cinch.
"You have to make sure there is sufficient quality of service for all your applications, including roaming," he says.
A host of vendors will introduce offerings aimed at business customers. Here's a sampling:
-- AccessLine Communications Corp. will announce SmartVoice, a VOIP service that can supplement voice networks. The company says its service can be used to cut the cost of calls among corporate sites, saving customers up to 50 percent on some lines. Customers connect to AccessLine's network via an on-site gateway, which acts as a virtual PBX, adding call features such as voice mail and automated call attendant.
-- German IP PBX maker Snom Technology AG will air Snom Box, an IP PBX for up to 50 users. The roughly wallet-sized box (3.5 by 3 by 1.5 inches) is smaller than the Snom phones it supports. It lacks ports to connect to the public phone network, so requires a separate public switched telephone network gateway. The company hasn't set a price.
-- Aastra Technologies Ltd. will announce and demonstrate a PBX-less IP phone system for small businesses that can scale up to 200 phones. The system consists of Venture 480i IP phones (US$379) and a VentureIP Gateway ($289) to the public phone network that can handle four phone lines. If a company wants to use more phone lines, it can buy more gateways. The peer-to-peer phones run software by Nimcat Networks that provides Venture gear with its PBX call features such as voice mail, auto attendant and call transfer.
-- Another peer-to-peer VOIP vendor, Popular Telephony Inc., is expected to unveil PeerioData, a data-storage upgrade to its Peerio VOIP middleware platform.
-- Telchemy Inc. is announcing that Texas Instruments Inc. is embedding its monitoring software in chips used for VOIP gear such as VOIP phones and gateways. Telchemy says this will give businesses a better reading of voice quality on their IP networks and a tool for troubleshooting problems.
-- Kagoor Networks Inc., a maker of session border controllers, is introducing upgrades that it says boost corporate network security. Session border controllers map public-to-private IP addresses and shepherd VOIP traffic in and out of firewalls without leaving ports open when calls are finished. Kagoor is adding the ability to handle data protocols to its VoiceFlow controllers. This means corporations don't have to set up separate devices in a security zone to handle VOIP management traffic that comes as part of VOIP flows. Before, this management traffic could not make it through firewalls via the session border controller, and devices to gather it had to be set up outside the main corporate firewall. -- Network World (US)