Saturday, December 09, 2006

PSTN, please do not compete with VoIP!

VoIP, stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, is a technology allows voice conversations to be carried over the Internet. Even though it is highlighted for voice communication, it is a protocol which serves various other technologies like video, fax etc. VoIP sends voice information in digital form, in discrete packets rather than by using the traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Compare to PSTN, VoIP or IP telephony not only differs in protocol but their underlying network is also different. PSTN opted for circuit switch network in contrast to VoIP’s packet switch network.

The Internet was originally designed for data networking. However, the immense success of IP based data networking has led developers think for an IP based voice networking. In addition to that, VoIP has become popular largely because of the cost advantages to consumers over traditional telephone networks. But how does it cost less?

VoIP uses Internet as transport network and thus uses a packet-switch network. As oppose to VoIP networks, in traditional telephony once a circuit is established between caller and called party, it remains connected for the duration of the session. It is a constant connection whereas packet switching opens a brief connection to send small chunk of data from one node to another. Moreover, in circuit switched network, links between nodes that make a path cannot be used by other nodes in the network. On the contrary, in a packet switched network the link that make a route from one node to another can be shared by other nodes. This scenario depicts, packet switching allows several calls to occupy the same amount of resources occupies by only one in a circuit switched network. As a result traditional telephony providers charge more than VoIP provider. Furthermore, from consumer’s point of view with VoIP they can meet their need of data and voice with one single packet switched network. They do not have to maintain two distinct networks for voice and data. Thus the maintenance cost also goes down.

Many countries such as Bangladesh yet to legalize VoIP. In Bangladesh, the government has been trying to encourage people to stick to its traditional telephone network. They have been cutting down the consumer’s bill by reducing the charges. However, we have seen the traditional telephone network will never be able to allow cheaper rate compare to VoIP network. Thus, it is not worth trying to reduce the charges of traditional telephony in order to discourage VoIP. Rather the government itself can go for VoIP businesses in different form.

Moreover, legalization of VoIP can benefits a country in several ways. Significant cost saving in the government, private and home telephone bill definitely is to make a mark in the economy. In the world of globalization, unlimited long distance call is desired to take the home businesses to the global market. VoIP is the cheapest solution to take your voice to the world business community. It is to be noted that, a single telephone call is worth than few email exchange. VoIP gives the ability to be mobile. Thus can be in contact anytime, anywhere with an Internet connection. Different VoIP protocols are similar to other Internet protocols. Thus it provides with a chance to intermingle different software solutions with the telephony system. One such great example is the way VoIP conferencing is done. Compare to PSTN conferences we can now simultaneously share voice, video and files in a conference. By using a single network for different purposes, it is possible to reduce overall operating costs and increase employee efficiency.

In addition to that VoIP promises with simplification, flexibility and scalability. VoIP installation and maintenance is based on software rather than hardware. Thus the system is more robust and easy to upgrade. Beside these, VoIP promises with lots of job creation all over the world, especially for the women. For example, setting up call centers. With call centers, any developing country can serve the developed countries with both incoming (e.g. product support) and outgoing (e.g. telemarketing) calls. VoIP is the solution which makes it possible. Furthermore, new software solutions will integrate real time voice system more and more in their system. Thus VoIP infrastructure may help country like Bangladesh which is looking for a good share from the global software outsourcing.

Dr. Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Bangladesh is the initiator, along with his colleagues of a telephony program call “Village Phone”. This is a great example of what telephony can provide to the poor. With Village Phone program poor, rural women have been provided with a cellular phone. This mobile phone is then cared for by a woman in the village, who charges for the use of the phone and pays a proportion back to the provider. Thus it not only gives the women a mean of earning but also creates a hub for remote places of Bangladesh to take their voices to the world. Thus the cellular operators are also encouraged to expand their network all over Bangladesh. It is noteworthy to mention that the cellular network of Bangladesh is competitive with other parts of the world. People from India and Bangladesh use Bangladeshi cellular network in the border areas. Finally, it is believed that VoIP can expedite the whole concept of Village Phone in many diverse manner.

However, VoIP is not completely flawless. The quality of voice is not as good as traditional telephony. It is mainly because it is susceptible to all the hurdles of Internet connection such as latency, jitter, packet loss etc. However, in last few years the quality has gone up and it is continuously getting better. Another drawback of VoIP for the developed countries is the failure of precise user tracking in case of emergency calling. Beside that VoIP is dependent on wall power. Traditional telephony runs on power provided from the central office. Thus developing countries may face problem with their frequent power outage. Finally, interoperability between different VoIP protocols still remains a problem.

Despite all these drawbacks it is certain that VoIP will exist. Thus more research concentration should go into the development of VoIP, rather than trying to fight it out by PSTN. Finally, my personal view to the future of telephony is, our future generation will laugh at us, while they will come to know that we charge people to talk over the phone! If you do not believe me, please explore the fate of telegraph system.

12 comments:

Zunaira said...

Some suggestions on making this info even more useful

- Add hyperlinks to terms/facts/developments mentioned in your article to elsewhere on the internet. Just google some interesting ones and link them.

- Add a few images with captions

- Add sub-headings to break the article. Many people would know enough about VoIP and might just want to see the research or new facts you mention in your piece. It would help them speed-read.

Hope this doesn't appear twice!

Lisa said...

Read your B4A post. I found your summary of VoIP vs PSTN fine, but it's still not completely clear what is the actual purpose of your research.

Anonymous said...

Hi sir,

First, I congragulate you for you Blog, I found it very intersting.
Although I'm a big supporter of VOIP, I dont really share you point of you when confronting PSTN to VOIP. I see PSTN and VOIP as complementary rather than competing services. The same way as the Mobile telephony and wireline telephony are. The PSTN network was designed such that to provided a high reliability and redundancy. It's a centralized serivce which is not necessarily a bad thing. Also, dont forget that a large internet traffic and hence VOIP, still rely on PSTN infrastructure and technology, especially for the so-called "last mile" such as DSL and T1. The existence of both networks will proablbly provide more redundancy may provide more robustness in some situations such natural disasters.
Good you mentionned VOIP for poor and developping countries as I'm from a developping country myself. I think VOIP is a great oppurtunity for those contries due to its easiness of deployment, open architecture and relatively low cost. However, in some developping contries there is a strong will to impose severe regulation on VOIP and to impose very expenseive license to exploit the service which higly prevents the develpement of VOIP and maintain the cost artificially hig for the benefit of some monopoly companies.
I hope I wasnt too long

Mohamd Chibani
PhD,
DSP and Speech Coding

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