VoIP In Many Countries

Government agencies in many countries are already embracing IP networks and adopting VoIP along the way. In addition, individual users are increasingly looking for the kind of advanced applications that can be provided in an all IP-enabled world. IP networks provide distributed intelligence throughout the networks, smart end points and smart applications. Also, IP networks are capable of delivering voice communications, as well as the seamless convergence of data, voice, and video applications, across multiple and diverse devices. The benefits of IP in the networks also extend to the cost of developing and upgrading applications; upgrades in an IP network are easier and less expensive to make, thus enabling the development of new innovations more rapidly, and at lower cost. Benefits also exist in the life cycle of IP systems and networks, with feature enhancements; updates and maintenance of these systems made electronically, thus improving the performance, and lowering the maintenance costs over the life of the system.

Even as this migration is taking place, the full adoption of IP in the communications networks will take several years to complete, with the co-existence of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and IP networks expected to continue through the transitional period. At the same time, new broadband wireless capabilities are emerging in the marketplace. Indeed for many countries, wireless provides a new, exciting, and affordable approach to bringing communications technology to their citizens, who today lack landline access. The developing countries offer exciting adoption of wireless in all flavors, and indeed 3G wireless will continue to advance most rapidly in Africa, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific. IP will be the bridge between the PSTN, wireless and the new broadband IP world.

With the new capabilities supported in the IP enabled world, new services are more easily provided to the end user, both in the enterprise and in the publicly offered services. Voice is now integrated with other applications; some of the new services are:

* Presence detection (instant messaging, "find me" services);

* One number/"follow me" services;

* Universal messaging;

* Virtual meetings/collaboration at the individual and enterprise levels;

* Real time language translation;

* Multi-Point Video Conferencing;

* Push-to-talk cellular;

* Voice chat

Now that voice can be just one more application in an IP network, innovation is rapidly occurring. Users are finding VoIP services attractive, regardless of their country or region. Recognizing that the first benefit that users experience is lowered cost, VoIP for some users is merely a way to avoid the traditionally high cost of some network communications services. But, the greatest benefits occur when there is a broadband architecture at the ends of the networks—or the so-called "last mile." Therefore, users who already have high speed Internet—whether broadband wireless, Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or cable—are now able to subscribe to a high quality VoIP service and get the benefits of "all distance" calling: new integrated features formerly reserved for business enterprises, such as personal conference bridge services and "follow me" services. Thus, for some broadband users VoIP has emerged as a driver of the rollout of broadband at the ends of the networks. At the same time growth of broadband deployment is encouraging the adoption of VoIP.

But VoIP is sometimes perceived as a threat to the traditional incumbent telecom services of many developing countries. While there is much discussion about lost revenue and threats to the present providers, the facts tell a different story. First, while VoIP is real competition and is growing rapidly, according to Telegeography 2005, today only 7 percent of the public Internet traffic is VoIP, and overall, approximately 11-12 percent of the total voice traffic in the world is VoIP. Second, in some developing countries incumbent providers have embraced VoIP and are offering it themselves. But it is understandable that some governments are concerned when the highest uses of VoIP exist in developing countries with the highest settlement fees. These governments fear the continued loss of telecom settlement fees. Of course, VoIP actually is a whole new paradigm about networks and applications, but getting to that discussion can be challenging for many national regulators.

Even as users embrace VoIP, it actually is the IP technology that allows voice to be just one, among a multitude of applications, like Instant Messaging, text messaging, video, and so on. This is a new and complex world. It isn’t simple any longer. Countries, whether in the developed world, or in emerging economies, or in the least developed regions have questions about how to treat IP networks, and VoIP.

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