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VoIP elusive with every new circuit switch

Posted: 20 Feb 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:voip? circuit switching? telecom networks? ip networks? cable telephony?

In the late 1990s, at the height of the Internet bubble, we heard telecom gurus saying it is the end of the road for traditional circuit-switching networks. The Internet-backed IP voice architecture will prevail because it could deliver efficient services far more cost-effectively, they professed.

A year after we entered the new millennium, the whole debate was buried into the so-called telecom's nuclear winter. Networking industry titans like Cisco who were acting as the vanguard of VoIP were themselves in doldrums. It is only now that we are hearing new revelations--a reversal of fortunes of some sorts.

As it came out, over the last couple of years, prices of circuit switches have dropped significantly. It is less expensive to implement a circuit switch than it is to deploy VoIP, which needs fairly sophisticated SoCs because there is a lot of packet processing involved. You do not need to process that amount of network overhead in a traditional circuit switch.

Although circuit-switching products have started to experience slow progression, two markets--China and India--are still seeing a strong growth. In mainland China, there are approximately 20 million landlines installed every year.

So the cost difference between circuit switching and VoIP products has proved more of a mirage. We see circuit switching slowing, but we do not see VoIP taking a big portion of the market in terms of actual deployment.

That is not to say that VoIP is purely hype. The IP-centric voice is bound to succeed; it is not a revolution but an evolution and will take its due course, though.

Industry observers believe that VoIP will be a dominant mode of communications by 2005. One area that has been surprisingly doing well in the United States is voice-over-cable. Cable telephony is rapidly coming of age as U.S. cable operators such as Comcast and Cox Communications are successfully providing alternatives to landline voice services.

Traditional circuit switching systems in developed markets such as Europe and North America face a rapidly growing problem of equipment obsolescence. Some of the most modern digital switches are more than 20 years old and approaching the end of their design life. The last telecom carriers would want to do right now is to replace infrastructure with yet more circuit switches.

Telecom industry should move faster to build better bridges between circuit and packet worlds - be they VoIP gateways or integrated access devices (IADs) - so the shift toward a full-fledged IP networks picks up some pace. With every new circuit switch installed in China, India, or elsewhere in the world, the prospects of having a global VoIP infrastructure seem slipping away.

- Majeed Ahmad

Electronic Engineering Times - Asia

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