Thursday, March 31, 2005

SBC comments on the Vonage E-911 issue

why SBC seems to be reluctant to work with Vonage to devise E-911 solutions? There is a good answer and disscussion over at header link!
Go over and see.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Why smaller companies take baby steps in VoIP deployment

Many larger companies are deploying VoIP in one location at a time,maybe only one IP PBX.
They do this to assess performance before they jump into the deep end of the pool.
The Enterprise VoIP Planet article notes, though, smaller enterprises are less bound by such caution.

Why is this? less layers of approval with more nimble decision making; closer collaboration in the testing process, older communications infrastructure compared to larger as well as similarly sized rivals.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Security requirements for Internet telephony networks

The Voice over IP Security Alliance, a recently formed industry group, has created a new committee to define security requirements for Internet telephony networks.

The committee will define security requirements across a variety of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) deployments and address issues such as security technology components, architecture and network design, network management, and end-point access and authentication, the group said Monday. Another panel will research infrastructure weaknesses, vulnerabilities and emerging application attacks, the group said.

Security requirements for Internet telephony networks

The Voice over IP Security Alliance, a recently formed industry group, has created a new committee to define security requirements for Internet telephony networks.

The committee will define security requirements across a variety of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) deployments and address issues such as security technology components, architecture and network design, network management, and end-point access and authentication, the group said Monday. Another panel will research infrastructure weaknesses, vulnerabilities and emerging application attacks, the group said.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Triple threat forVOIP

There are three categories of VoIP threats, said Gary Coman, manager, IP Communications, Cisco Asia-Pacific.

The first one is confidentiality related. Confidentiality refers to the requirement that information must be kept private and secure. In a VoIP environment, information leaks in the case of eavesdropping. With much more points of access than traditional PBX systems, VoIP network is simply easier to tap.

To eavesdrop in a conventional phone network environment, a person needs to have physical access to a phone line or a switch, but in an IP scenario physical access is no longer a requirement.

Switch default passwords can also become the weakest link as switches usually have a default login/password such as admin/ admin or root/root.

An intruder with access to the switch administration interface can mirror all packets on one port to another, making interception of communications possible and unnoticed.

Something simple can be done to prevent this from happening, but enterprises must remind themselves to get that done—they need to change the default passwords from time to time.

In addition, remote access to the GUI should be disabled to stop interception of plain text administration sessions.

Another pressing security issue is integrity. This concerns whether information is altered by rogue users. Integrity not only applies to data such as bank account number and passwords but also system data and configuration.

Given the richness of features on the VoIP switches, an attacker who can compromise the system configuration can launch whatever assault he wants.

For instance, if an intruder masquerades as a legitimate user and accesses an operation port of the switch, he can use the permission level of that legitimate person to perform destructive acts like disclosing confidential data, crashing the switch, modifying the switch software, and even modifying the security log in order to remove traces of the attack.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) servers that automatically assign IP addresses to clients logging onto the TCP/IP network could also be used to change the configuration of IP phones. When the IP phone boots and requests a DHCP response, a rogue DHCP server can initiate a response with data fields containing false information.

This could result in attacks on both the phones and IP media gateway, the interface between circuit switched networks and IP network.

The third major risk is related to availability. Any network is vulnerable to denial-of-service (DoS) attacks achieved by overloading the capacity of the system, but the problem with VoIP could be particularly severe due to its sensitivity to packet loss.

Impenetrable walls?
Common security practices today for VoIP include the implementation of technologies such as firewall, encryption, authentication, and traffic segmentation for voice and data via virtual LAN.

These technologies are necessary because voice is now on the same network of data and exposed to the same set of vulnerabilities. Though they safeguard the networks and traffic, they do have their downside and impact the QoS.

The firewall can simplify security management by consolidating security measures at the firewall gateway.

Thus there is no need to require all end points to maintain up-to-date security policies. In other words, it takes the huge burden off the VoIP network infrastructure.

However, firewalls also pose problems for incoming calls because allowing signal traffic through a firewall from an incoming call means leaving several ports open that might get exploited by attackers.

In such a case, solutions such as a voice-aware firewall and Application Level Gateways (ALG) can be implemented.

Andrew Ma, head of solution & product marketing Asia-Pacific at Juniper Networks, said voice-aware firewalls understand the mechanisms of dynamic opening and closing of ports in VoIP.

Thus such products allow the opening of ports when a connection needs to be established only.

An alternative is to buy an ALG-embedded firewall. An ALG is a software that enables dynamic configuration based on application-specific information. Thus a firewall with a VoIP ALG can understand H.323 or SIP, and dynamically open and close the necessary ports.

Despite being a simple solution, there are performance and cost issues with ALG, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US.

Since ALG is embedded in the firewall itself, the latency and throughput slowdown of all traffic traversing the firewall is aggregated and compounded by the VoIP call volume.

Such firewalls are also costly. Users would even need to get an upgrade or replacement when VoIP standards change.

Although firewalls can help keep attackers at bay, they cannot guard the networks against an internal hacker. So another layer of defence is needed at the protocol level.

Coded packets
In VoIP, as in data network, this can be done by encryption at the IP level using IPSec.

By having this deployed, packets will become unintelligible when someone on the network, authorised or not, intercepts the traffic not intended for them.

IPSec, however, can degrade voice traffic.

“IPSec encryption and decryption is so intensive that they cause delay,” Ma explained.

IPSec also increases latency by increasing the size of packets in VoIP. Usually large packet sizes boost throughput because large sizes mean a lower number of packets that the routers and firewalls need to look at.

Nevertheless, according to the NIST, the growth in packet size due to IPSec does not lead to a higher payload capacity. Instead, the increase is merely an increase in header size due to encryption and encapsulation of the old IP header and the introduction of the new IP header and encryption information.

Ma suggested that a voice-accelerated firewall be deployed to ease the delay situation.

Alternatively, the NIST advises users to do encryption and decryption only at end points such as the IP phone.

But of course, that means a computationally powerful end point is a must, which might be a cost issue for those who want to deploy them.

Despite drawbacks like hidden security costs, you should still consider VoIP if you are buying a new phone system. Ask vendors for customer references, and try to talk to the customers about security and other issues.

Hennepin County, Minnesota moves to VoIP for telephony

Hennepin County's government is converting all of its telephone lines to voice over IP (VoIP) service in order to reduce expenses. The county estimates moving all incoming and outgoing lines to VoIP will save $750,000 per year. The county has a robust network infrastructure, and expects that the new VoIP system will be highly reliable.

AOL internet phone service may bring VoIP to the mainstream consumer

AOL's recent announcement that it intends to make a major move into the voice over IP (VoIP) market is a major step in bringing VoIP services into the mainstream. AOL's customer base is 29 million households strong, as compared to VoIP powerhouse Vonage's 500,000 customers. Analysts believe that AOL may be able to convince technologically unsophisticated users to make the jump to VoIP.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Europian VOIP Markets

Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services are taking hold in businesses across Western Europe — and their spread shows no signs of slowing down this year.

The VoIP market grew in terms of both revenue and shipments during the fourth quarter of 2004.

Revenue rose 13 percent over the third quarter to hit $77m while the number of IP handsets shipped rose 14 percent, according to IDC's Western European IP Telephone Tracker.

Cisco was the market share leader for both revenue and shipments, with Avaya in second place.

Rogier Mol, senior IP telephony equipment analyst, told ZDNet UK sister site "We're definitely seeing IP telephony has become mainstream for enterprises in Europe especially when you look at the breadth of sectors where it is being deployed."

Healthcare and local government were the sectors with the most deployments in the fourth quarter, says IDC, with the NHS leading the way in the UK.

The reasons for switching are many, explains Mol. When first making the move to IP, "[companies] think it's all about low cost", he said. "In the beginning it is. But in the end it's about other capabilities such as integrating telephony systems with applications."

Other benefits of IP telephony include improved business efficiency through enabling unified messaging and better collaboration, according to Mol.

The market's not slowing down anytime soon, either. IDC predicts for 2005 IP telephone shipments will rise 53 percent and revenue will reach roughly $350m.

VoIP phone price war

The booming market for phone calls using Internet technology has created a bonanza for Cisco Systems and other makers of telecommunications equipment, but aggressive pricing could squeeze profits.

According to a Reuters story, VoIP phone prices now average around $250 per set. For some budget-conscious enterprises, that could be a barrier to use.

But perhaps not for long. The same article foresees that aggressive price promotions from well-capitalized VoIP phone manufacturers such as Cisco Systems could push prices even lower. How low is a subject of contention.


Monday, March 21, 2005

One of the most important Internet telephony rulings of the year is expected from federal regulators on Tuesday.

In a move that has been closely watched by the voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, industry, Level 3 Communications has argued that it should be able to pay lower fees to local telephone companies to begin and end voice calls on their networks. If Level 3 loses, the prices for some VoIP calls could jump.

The Federal Communications Commission has been considering Level 3's request since December 2003. A decision was due in October, but the FCC extended its own deadline to March 22.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell indicated last year that he might have granted Level 3's request. In November, Powell said: "I am committed to ensuring that this commission avoids any action that might slow the IP-services revolution." Kevin Martin, the new FCC chairman, has not been as explicit.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

incoming FCC chief Martin Seen as open-minded

Incoming FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin will have a lot to say about VoIP regulation - or lack thereof.So far, the VoIP community seems to be somewhat upbeat. Can't really tell if the sentiments are more out of courtesy or a sense of ideological compatibility - but they do sound sincere.

Friday, March 18, 2005

How some ISPs may kill VOIP services!

How some ISPs may kill VOIP services! There is nothing you could do remedy this. Or is it. Follow the link (on header for more infoe)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Another Survey says...............

In its just-published "2005 Telecommunications Report," Harris Interactive found that 87% of business decision-makers are familiar with VoIP and, of that number, 12% currently use it in their organizations. In contrast, VoIP lacks mindshare among consumers. The survey found that only 35% of consumers as a whole are aware of the technology and only three percent of them currently use it.
Read the full story by clicking the header..........

Monday, March 14, 2005

VoIP Gear for Small Businesses emerges

While large IP PBX vendors continue to build on server-based platforms, some international firms are taking different approaches to small-business VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone systems.

Among the distinctive small-business VoIP products emerging is an embedded IP PBX appliance for small offices that fits in a briefcase. For customers not interested in any extra hardware, another VoIP system uses peer-to-peer technology in IP phones, eliminating the need for an IP PBX. Users of these types of products say the gear is more focused on the needs of small-office phone systems and provides a good cost-saving alternative to expensive server-based IP PBXs from larger vendors.

One company, German VoIP vendor Snom Technology, has crunched down an IP PBX into a device smaller than a home answering machine. The Snom Box is an IP PBX for companies with 50 or fewer users. The device runs Snom's 4S IP PBX and voice-mail system software on top of an embedded Linux operating system. (Snom offers this software on a server-based IP PBX for larger businesses and for carriers offering IP Centrex services.) Conferencing and auto-attendant features also are supported.

The Snom Box is tiny: 3.5 inches tall by 3 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. This is smaller than the IP phones the system supports. The IP PBX software uses Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for transport, so it is compatible with any standard SIP phone.

"It was important for us to use SIP. This gives small businesses more options in choosing handsets; we're not looking to tie anyone" into proprietary VoIP protocols or phone hardware, says Oliver Wittig, Snom's global sales manager.

No Moving Parts

Saturday, March 12, 2005

All VoIP, All The Time

Spring VON 2005 show in San Jose certainly lived up to its billing. The news and announcements came fast and furious. Most notably, AOL announced AOL Internet Phone Service,with pricing and availability details to come in the next 30 days. AOL chief executive Jon Miller said the new service won't just replace existing phone service, but will also use its e-mail and instant-messaging chops to bring more features to voice communications.

But it wasn't all products, all the time, at the show. A panel warned that telecom regulation reform most likely won't occur in 2005. Conflicts between politicians will probably delay the typically incomprehensible process of drafting new telecom legislation, panelists said. Are you shocked, simply shocked!

Away from the show, there was plenty of VoIP news as well. Multiple surveys showed that there's huge pent-up demand for VoIP from both consumers and enterprises:

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

sYou’ve a phone call

America Online wants to sell you VoIP, and it's not alone.
Jonathan Miller, CEO of America Online, reviewed the company’s plan at the largest VoIP trade show, the Voice On the Net (VON) conference, but withheld critical details such as price. AOL has been testing the service since last summer and expects to formally introduce it by the end of March.
AOL is just one of several large Internet companies looking to leverage VoIP. Others include Yahoo and MSN. Like AOL, Yahoo and MSN already offer voice service through instant messenger. And VoIP companies like Vonage have a head start on AOL. Vonage recently announced a 500,000-subscriber milestone and expects to have 1 million subscribers by the end of the year.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

You Can Put End to VOIP Port Blocking

News Item
SAN JOSE, Calif.—Members of the Federal Communications Commission claim market forces, not regulation, will likely prevent a repeat of an ISP blocking voice-over-IP traffic.

In a "town hall" meeting Monday night at the VON Conference & Expo here, Jeffrey Carlisle, chief of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau, and Robert Pepper, chief of policy development at the FCC, answered audience questions on regulatory issues. A key topic was the recent blocking of VOIP traffic by Madison River Communications, a wholly owned subsidiary of Madison River Telephone Company LLC, and whether that scenario could repeat itself with other ISPs.

Powell makes final VoIP call

Outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell did some legacy building here Tuesday during a "swan song" in which he bid adieu to the Internet telephone industry that was fostered by his hands-off regulatory style.
During his tenure, Powell consistently advocated a free-market approach to VoIP specifically and to broadband in general, which often put him at odds with the two Democratic commissioners and sometimes Kevin Martin, a fellow Republican. Powell argued for greater competition between cable and DSL rather than continuing predecessor William Kennard's approach of forcing telephone companies to accommodate rivals on their networks by signing money-losing deals.

Monday, March 07, 2005

BYOP -Build Your Own PBX

What would it mean to you to have your own full-featured PBX system at your home or small office? What would it mean to you if you could build an entire PBX system (minus the phones) on hardware you probably have laying around, AND that it can probably also save you money on your phone bill? Sounds too hard to believe doesn't it, but using old hardware and some open source software, you really can build a commercial quality phone system that would normally cost thousands of dollars.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Madison River Communications Corp fined $15000 for blocking VOIP

The complaint was made to the FCC by two companies Vonage Holdings and Nuvio, which specialise in VoIP services. It appears that Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron was willing to act on his earlier tirade about VoIP blocking." From the article: "The action is seen as a warning to other telcos not to prevent the growth of VoIP over their networks. Many of these companies see VoIP as a threat to their landline revenues as calls made over the internet can be made to anywhere in the world for the price of a local call."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

'3D' strategy towards VOIP

"They Deny, Delay and Degrade VOIP. It's not surprising as government can retain foreign currency revenues by blocking it.
Addressing delegates last night at a First Tuesday event dedicated to voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), International Telecommunications Users Group executive director Ewan Sutherland accused the continent's incumbent operators of deploying a '3D' strategy towards VOIP

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Costa Rica May Criminalize VoIP

The growing surge in international VoIP calls has caused the state-owned telecommunications monopoly in Costa Rica to propose legislation that could criminalize the use of Internet telephone calls.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) said that it views VoIP as a value-added telecom service and, as such, it should be regulated. At its most Draconian, the proposal would make Internet telephoning a crime.

One Costa Rican official of an agency seeking to promote the Central American country's software industry said last week that ICE's proposal would be "disastrous" to the country's efforts to grow its software development and outsourcing businesses. The official, who asked that his name not be used, noted that Costa Rica has been rapidly growing its outsourcing business and low-cost telephone service is crucial to the growth of that business.
Follow the discussion at the header link

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