09/03/2005

ITSPA - Internet Telephony Services Providers Association

ITSPA - Internet Telephony Services Providers Association

Last night (Monday March 8th), ITSPA or the Internet Telephony Service Providers Association has their Parliamentary lauch in Portcullis House.

ITSPA was formed to support "new wave" telephony providers as the didn't feel the (multitude) of existing organisations that were geared towards traditional telcos represented them.

The launch was to officially aanounce their new code of practice, which as yet has not appeared on the ITSPA site.

Though there are quite a few Internet telephony providers (Gossiptel, Babbel, The Internet Phone Co, Sipgate, Vonage, to name a few) there are only around 10-15,000 VoIP users in the UK - these are people who've taken up VoB (Voice over Broadband etc) rather than corporate users who utilise VoIP across their own infrastructure. I'd also guess these figures are exagerated as people sign-up for a service and then don't use it. Quite a few of the telephony players attended the event, including AOL who are expected to launch a service reasonably soon, as well as the traditional telcos such as THUS, Energis and Colt.

Interestingly Skype, who have by far the greatest of VoIP users wasn't there (more on Skype in another article).

Only time will tell if VoIP does take off, it will, but in what time-scales. Currently BT Wholesale have almost 5 million ADSL connections, local loop unbundlers account for 31,000 (as of the end of Jan 2005) and cable about 2 million. Unfortunately most of those ADSL customers are on consumer "broadband" which is contended at 50 to 1, with no QoS guarantees. 50:1 with an upstream connection of 256Kb/s means 5Kb/s. Of course most of the time most of the users wont be using their bandwidth, but they will some of the time and that's where problems will occur.

Unfortnately it'll only get worse, as BT have introduced capacity based charging and the larger BT Wholesalers are moving or have moved to this. CBC is where the ISP pays a fixed prices for the end user connection (at whatever speed they're connected at) and pays a big wallop for the backhaul of the data (i.e. size of pipe). The more users you put on the pipe, the better the ISP economics, so they want to overcontend as much as possible.

LLU players do have the option of offering QoS all the way back to the DLSAM (and into the premises), but as yet they only represent a tiny proportion of users.

What this means is that as people pick VoB services (and more people use it) the contention issues will increase. Consumers may put up with it, as they're getting calls "for free" but as a business it's unlikely they will - they wont want the call to fail just as they're clinching that important deal.

So until real QoS can be achieved (and BT have said they are going to trial it sometime this year), VoB is likely to get mass appeal and then a huge backlash as people give up their primary telephony access for a sub performing service. With things like CPS (carrier pre select) already offering flat rate UK calls etc on standard phone lines, why move to VoIP?
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