Second-Nature VoIP

by Ed Sutherland

What's Next in Tech: Look for VoIP to mirror traditional phone service on the back of expanding wireless networks.

Next in tech Internetnews.com editors provide an early roadmap for tech's direction in 2007.

Thanks to the seemingly ubiquitous nature of wireless connectivity, many of the promises of new options for consumers and business made in 2006 will be realized in 2007, according to experts surveyed by internetnews.com.

Companies that made headlines in 2006 will again hold the spotlight, including AT&T , and Sprint Nextel and Vonage . And cellular carriers will embrace past competitors as old technology is upgraded.

With nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population owning a cell phone, 2007 looks to be the year of the dual-mode mobile phone. Such handsets can place calls using either a cellular network or a Wi-Fi connection, ABI Research analyst Phil Solis said.

While dual-mode handsets for Skype's VoIP service are arriving, Solis said such phones are still a niche market.

Next year's growth in municipal wireless networks, such as those planned for Philadelphia and San Francisco, will inundate dense urban centers with a wireless signal able to compete with a cellular tower, Solis said.

By 2008, Sprint will introduce its Push-to-Talk QChat service using its EVDO Rev. A network, he said.

Yankee Group analyst Nate Dyer said 2007 will be a rebound year for RIM , which settled its patent-infringement suit with NTP for $612.5 million after a five-year battle.

Will VoIP Finally Breakout?

VoIP will start to gain traction among carriers, as 3G networks from Sprint, Cingular and Verizon rollout enhancements able to deliver IP-based calls, said Peter Jarich, principal wireless analyst at Current Analysis.

Although 2007 may provide some answers, questions will remain about Skype and Vonage, the two most well-known VoIP providers.

Ebay's Skype will spend 2007 attempting to convince IT managers the software is safe for employees to use at work, IDC's VoIP analyst Will Stofega predicts. Twenty-five percent of Skype users are business people, Stofega said.

Whether the company can make the leap to legitimacy depends on if it can cut a deal with a carrier, such as T-Mobile, said Stofega.

Vonage may bounce back from this year's IPO disaster, but it depends on whether the IP telephony provider can grow its numbers.

In 2007, adoption of VoIP will continue to grow, but the expansion won't be powered as much by the two major IP telephony companies as by telecommunications and cable firms, according to the IDC analyst.

Additionally, we will witness the merging of consumer and business VoIP markets, better reflecting a communications lifestyle. "That's where it has to move for advanced IP to take off," he said.

In the office, greater focus will be on using VoIP for business-to-consumer contact, Dyer said. Emphasis will be placed on banking and financial services' use of Internet calling.

But like the progress of VoIP by carriers, greater use within companies depends on the Wi-Fi infrastructure, Dyer said.

For instance, Verizon said that VoIP and data traffic should use redundant wireless networks: data traffic must use 802.11g , while an 802.11a connection is used to route more demanding voice.

The bottom line for VoIP in 2007 is that it must work on mirroring traditional phone service in dependability, experts say. "People don't know what this stuff is; they just want it to work," Stofega concluded.

This article was originally published on Thursday Dec 28th 2006
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