Silos Are For Grain, Not VoIP

Wall Street Journal has a long piece about new VoIP phones, but misses the point about lack of interoperability between various issues. I wrote about this last week, here and also for CNN Money. Its appropriate that we address the issue one more time, though instead of me writing, I invited Erik Lagerway to share his thoughts in this guest post. Erik was the COO and Founder of VoIP software maker XTen (now called Counterpath) and currently is living the consultant life. You can read his blog at SIPthat.

Guest Post by Erik Lagerway

We humans tend to have short memories and sometimes that works to our advantage. Maybe it’s all that cortisol flowing through our brains zapping our memories. Whatever it is we tend to forget things we swore we never would.

The telcos of yesterday are the recipient of many long faces and fowl curses by mostly all consumers who used long distance, voice mail, caller id etc. Those pesky bills sure seem bigger than maybe they should have been and even worse there were few if any alternative service providers. The ones we did have to choose from were not much better and sometimes worse than what we had to begin with. Well, it seems we have forgotten those days in lieu of VoIP … the biggest show on the Internet is VoIP.

Same road apples, different pile. The consumer is being bombarded with features – mostly shiny little phones – and with that the VoIP industry is missing the most important virtue of this technology, the ability to interoperate with many devices, which ultimately means fair choice to the consumer.

The ability to lose is also ours according to Microsoft, Skype, Vonage and many others in the mix. In many ways its worse than it was in the old days. I can’t use many of these proprietary devices to call into another service using the same technology. These new age telephone companies will tell you that they can’t make enough money by openly peering with other networks, they need to hold us captive in order to make ends meet. Hmm, it doesn’t seem like we have come very far at all does it.

Open network peering can and will work. If I have a network of subscribers and you have a network of subscribers and we both use the same underlying technology, as most VoIP providers do these days, why is it that we can’t share traffic and generate even more revenue than before? We can. The problem is that each provider is trying so hard to outdo each other they forget what the consumer really wants, the ability to choose for themselves what device they want to use and then pick a service to use it with.

Maybe an open communications federation needs to be constructed. An organization that is collectively owned and operated by all communications service providers involved. A federation that builds and maintains core open standards networks under a set of guidelines that the operators agree to and more importantly what the consumers want and deserve. This may not be entirely feasible today but I think you get the idea. There is no reason to step back into the dark ages we have built this technology to be open for a reason!

Photo courtesy of Flickr by Toshio1