Calling Across the Net
- By Teresa von Fuchs

Wi-Fi and VoIP handsets are still new to the market, only being readily available in the last quarter of 2004, and so still only represent a fairly small market share, though one with great potential in the enterprise space. The latter is particularly true in logistics and healthcare verticals, where, according to Infonetics, VoWLAN is already gaining momentum and will become more widespread.

In addition to having great potential, Infonetics sees VoIP and VoWLANs as potentially disruptive. “Voice over wireless Internet devices have the potential to be a hugely disruptive technology,” says Richard Webb, directing analyst for Infonetics and author of the report. “One big factor is the low cost of calling, especially long distance, overseas and during peak hours. The traditional model of time- and distance-based pricing for voice calls will be eroded by VoIP, and as VoIP goes wireless, this will present a challenge not only to fixed-line operators but to mobile operators as well.”

Fortunately for the carriers, there are still technical issues to work out before Internet calling becomes commercially viable. The report lists quality of service, roaming across different wireless platforms and the short range of Wi-Fi signals as a few of the logistical limitations. "But, with vendors currently working toward standards to address these challenges, ” continues Webb, “it is likely we will be at the foot of the adoption bell-curve by mid-2006."

One such limit, security, is already being addressed by a newly formed group of vendors, providers, security researchers and thought leaders that has gathered to form the Voice over Internet Protocol Security Alliance, or VOIPSA. According to the group, the reality of VoIP becoming a viable corporate telecommunications solution means it will become a target for hackers.

The alliance wishes to serve an educational role, with an emphasis on security, for organizations using and wishing to use VoIP. VOIPSA hopes to host discussion lists; circulate white papers; sponsor research projects on the technologies' strengths and weaknesses; and develop tools and methodologies for public use.

The group began at the VoIP research lab formed by Tipping Point, a security division of 3COM. Other members include Alcatel, Avaya, Insightix and NetCentrex, along with security firm Symantec and researchers at Columbia University.


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