Verizon Gets Schooled on VoIP

by Colin C. Haley

The carrier funds two research projects at Columbia.

Verizon Laboratories is working with Columbia University to research ways to improve the security and functionality of Voice over IP services.

The collaboration focuses on two areas: protecting voice packets from being compromised while traveling over converged networks; and improving presence features that let callers know the availability of their contacts.

When the project concludes this spring, any equipment and prototypes will be transferred to Verizon Laboratories to supplement the Baby Bell's own efforts to advance VoIP technology.

Mike Weintraub, director of converged services at Verizon Laboratories, told internetnews.com that some of the technology developed at Columbia may eventually help Verizon set future technical requirements for softswitches , the platforms that connect wireline phone calls to IP networks for VoIP.

The project, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of Columbia's computer science department, will be funded by Verizon Laboratories and overseen by Prof. Henning Schulzrinne.

Weintraub described Schulzrinne as "a pioneer in VoIP and a world-renowned, world-class researcher" who will bring attention to Verizon's VoIP efforts.

A $120,000 Verizon grant was presented to Schulzrinne by Stuart Elby, vice president of network architecture and enterprise services at Verizon Laboratories. Elby is no stranger to Columbia; he earned his Ph.D. from the school in 1994.

"This project allows us to work on real-world problems for a very large-scale deployment, exploring how VoIP systems can move from laboratory and small-scale systems to serving a leading telecommunications provider," Schulzrinne said in a statement.

Verizon launched its consumer VoIP service, dubbed VoiceWing, a year ago. The service includes call forwarding and detailed call logs, among other features.

The New York-based carrier doesn't disclose its VoiceWing subscriber total. Overall, however, consumers are making the switch to broadband telephony.

The number of U.S. households using VoIP is expected to jump to 12 million in 2009 from 400,000 in 2004, according to JupiterResearch, which is owned by the same company as internetnews.com.

VoIP upstart Vonage is the industry leader and predicts that it will have 1 million customers by year's end. However, JupiterResearch analysts said telecoms like Verizon and AT&T hold two advantages over startups: they have strong relationships with customers; and younger consumers prefer wireless telephony to landlines, making the case to switch to VoIP more difficult.

This article was originally published on Wednesday Jul 27th 2005