Today, let's take a break from our usual product-focused blogs and have a little fun. The VoIP (Voice over IP) industry and providers are growing at an amazingly rapid, almost geometric rate, so it's always good to keep in the big picture in mind. But, that big picture is really just made up of a bunch of little puzzle pieces.
Rather than trying to do some grandiose (and yawn-inspiring) treatise on the nature of this technology, let's just throw a little trivia out there. Here are five things you might not know about VoIP - past, present and future. Hopefully you'll learn something you didn't know, and you'll get a better perspective on the pros and cons of VoIP.
A Few Tidbits on the History and Future of VoIP
It began in 1995. Voice over internet protocol is older than you might think. It actually began in 1995 with an Israeli company called VocalTec, who are in fact still in business and still developing VoIP technologies. However, as broadband was nearly unheard of outside of college campuses, it had to work through 33.3 and 56.6 baud dialup modems. As a result, sound quality was significantly poorer than what you got through telephones of the time, often sounding more like low-grade walkie-talkies than the high-quality connections we have today.
VoIP currently accounts for about 14% of phone calls worldwide. According to this Ipsos poll, It is spreading in worldwide adoption. 14% may not sound like a lot, but considering the technology has only been mature for a few years, that's a huge shift in global telecommunications. It's growing especially quickly in countries that didn't invest heavily in telephone networks in the 20th Century, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, since VoIP allows them to bypass that step and simply use Internet services. This suggests interesting opportunities for globally-focused businesses.
Milliseconds matter. Delay issues are one of the biggest problems faced by developers. They interfere
with the ability of VoIP systems to create the illusion of real-time conversation. Delays of less than 100ms are considered the ideal, as anything above 150ms starts becoming noticeable. Given that your speech has to be encoded, broken into packets, transmitted over the internet, then reassembled and decoded on the other side, this is a seriously difficult task. This can be made somewhat easier by using more bandwidth, but only if both sides can handle larger data streams.
Revenues are skyrocketing. If it's a good time to buy Voice Over IP services, it's an even better time to sell it. According to Infonetics, global revenues are up 16% between 2011 and 2012. In the same time period, hosted service revenues were up 33%, and SIP trunking revenues were up a whopping128%! According to them, an approximate 176 million subscribers currently use it as their primary telephone service. There's no reason whatsoever to think those numbers won't continue to grow rapidly in the years to come.
SPIT will happen. If you're looking to the future, one of the bigger challenges that's on the horizon is SPIT. That is, SPam over IP Telephony. (We don't make 'em up, folks.) Because IP telephones receive an IP address like any other connected device, that makes them vulnerable to remote manipulation. Plus, the inexpensive nature of these calls makes it easy to mass-"mail" people, wasting their time and bandwidth. Currently, it's possible to implement white/black lists based on CallerID, but there aren't any solid solutions. Proposals such as the VIAT Project are focusing on identifying unwanted calls based on "acoustic fingerprints" and noticing characteristic patterns in the data.