The Power of Standards-Based VoIP
VoIP – Connecting the Islands
When building a communication system, it's important to get everyone to use the same technology. Any single company might be happy to have everyone use its services – just like AT&T had control of the market a few decades ago. When a single company is in such a strong position, it's easy for them to enforce standards on their customers. This is what makes it simple for one person to talk to another if they utilize the services of the same organization. But in a fragmented market, it's crucial that everyone speaks the same language. Competition is a good thing after all. Though a monopoly may be able to enforce standards, it invariably stifles the marketplace, increases prices, and exerts onerous controls over its customers.
Technology which is standards-based allows people to use different vendors for their communication needs and still be able to connect with one another. The PSTN system is extremely standards-based which is why one person using Verizon is able to communicate with someone else using AT&T via a plethora of standards such as the telephone number, signaling etc. Unfortunately, these standards take time to develop because they have to be finalized and everyone has to agree to them. Since each company would like its own particular implementation to become the standard, there's always a fight between the various entities. We have seen this with VoIP which promises to replace the telephone system is only we could all agree on the standards.
Finalizing VoIP Standards
The term "VoIP" is very general. There are hundreds of different services allowing users to speak to each other over the Internet and all of them can be called VoIP applications. But very few of these can talk to each other. Even basic Internet products such as Gtalk and Yahoo chat are unable to intercommunicate because they don't use the same technology. This renders them useless for large-scale communications. The power of a new technology is exponentially enhanced when a large number of people use it at the same time. VoIP has the capability to replace the PSTN system and provide cheaper calls with more features. But first, the various point applications have to agree to speak the same language.
To an extent, this has been achieved with SIP. The SIP signaling protocol binds together a large number of VoIP providers who're free to implement the specific details of the services. Even though this is not perfect, it has already created a huge hosted PBX VoIP ecosystem allowing disparate communication services to connect with each other. Consumers are the biggest beneficiaries since the usefulness of their hosted VoIP phones increase when they can talk to more people for free.
The evolution of SIP is probably the most significant development in the VoIP world in recent years. It'll be interesting to see where it goes and how it will evolve in the future.