More Than Just PSTN Replacement
In my last blog entry, I was decrying what some others have said about VoIP and the average consumer. Part of the problem is that just about everyone selling VoIP service, whether it be in the consumer or business space, is basically selling VoIP as toll bypass. Maybe that’s because it’s the only “marketable” thing to do with VoIP right now. It’s something the average consumer can understand and it’s something the companies selling it can make money on (albeit not much).
VoIP to me represents so much more than PSTN replacement. It represents both a way to disintermediates point-to-point voice communication and provides one of the keys to convergence.
In the PSTN world, the telcos are the intermediates in the communication path. They own the communication path. That means they can make (and do) money on every communication that passes through them everytime it happens. Telcos have been doing this for years. How else can services like IPKall be offered for free? Hint: IPKall is a service provided by a CLEC who owns the telephone numbers in question and therefore make a small amount of money on each incoming call. My guess is the folks at Free Conference are in a similar situation.
When two endpoints are talking over VoIP, the point of intermediation either completely changes or vanishes entirely depending on the situation. If you are using a commercial service like BroadVoice or VoicePulse, your intermediation point changes to that provider. Why? Because all of their customers VoIP traffic must proxy through them. There are technical reasons for this, namely the endpoints are behind NAT and the gateways are needed to aid in communication to the PSTN and to other VoIP endpoints. Skype also employs proxies, but instead of employing their own, they co-opt the computers of their users to do the dirty work.
To make the intermediary vanish, either call IP to IP or set up your own intermediary: an Asterisk server, sipX, or something similar. These servers allow you to become your own intermediary for voice communication with your friends, the PSTN, or whoemever. The power of communications in your hands. Voxilla has it’s own Asterisk server. We have people in different parts of the country and the world using this server. We call amongst ourselves. We provide our own services. We control our own communications destiny. Peer-to-peer calling is free. Peer to PSTN calling is dirt-cheap.
Meanwhile, the widespread adoption of VoIP provides a major component needed to increase convergence. By convergence, I mean “all media streams flowing over one network.” Right now we’ve got Cable TV or satellite, a telephone, a mobile phone, and who knows what else. As I’ve said many times, voice is just an application, even on a regular PSTN line. When the application can be transmitted in a common form over numerous different physical mediums, that clears the way for convergence. VoIP makes it possible for voice. Other technologies make it possible for video, audio, text, and whatever else anyone wants to dream up.
The major things holding convergence back: lack of bandwidth and incumbent cable and telephone companies too interested in holding onto their monopoly profits to deploy it in any serious amount. I have high hopes that these barriers will slowly come down, either by market forces or possibly regulation.