Earlier this month, XConnect, which interconnects Voice over Broadband operators (VoBBs) with the goal of providing free calls and rich IP multimedia services to more end users, officially launched in North America. The release announcing that launch can be found here.
Eli Katz, founder and CEO at XConnect was kind enough to answer several questions I had regarding the launch of the new peering service.
GG: How does your organization compare to others in the VoIP peering space, such as Telx or The VPF?
EK: In technical terms, we are the only company providing layer 4–7 peering services. In addition we actively support the commercial layer as well (layer 8!?).
This means we are a “VoIP-aware” peering service: providing a more comprehensive solution and service encompassing the most crucial issues affecting VoIP Peering between VoBBs.
Most of the companies which offer “VoIP Peering” do not address these issues, which are demanded by VoBBs. (As far as I know, VPF does not address Interoperability, Security, Commercial, but only supports a basic Number discovery.)
XConnect has an advanced and highly optimized carrier ENUM service, with security and privacy features (to safeguard the commercially sensitive information pertinent to each VoBB).
Multi-Protocol (H.323, SIP, IAX) and multi-variant. Even within SIP, interoperability is a high challenge with multi variants/extensions and subtly different vendor implementations, even across their own different software versions. At XConnect, using Kayote Networks’ solutions and experience, we normalize (like a large hosted SBC) the signalling and ensure real interoperability across the 10s or100s of disparate VoBB systems. With XConnect you “Plug & Peer” and we handle the interoperability challenges.
For example, Protocol Validation, CallerID Authentication, and SPIT Protection and a wide variety of other issues (authentication, certification, anonymous calling, circle of trust, etc.)
Without resolving the myriad VoIP security issues, then opening one’s network of VoIP customers to other networks, you create a Wild West of VoIP insecurity. With SPAM over Internet Telephony, CallerID spoofing and phishing attacks, consumer confidence in the new IP-Communications paradigm will be hit severely.
At XConnect, these issues have been addressed, and whilst we are not providing the panacea, we believe that we have the most advanced systems in place to protect the ITSP network, and end users.
XConnect provides support and the commercial management and environment, through the XConnect XChange, for legacy style, bi-lateral settlement based (per minute) call charging and the new innovative, multi-lateral settlement free model of the XConnect Alliance. VoBBs using VPF presumably negotiate multiple bilateral agreements – a major headache.
We are also currently in talks with a number of physical / IP Peering Network providers with significant presence in key geographies, which will also complement our service, for those customers who (understandably) want to peer over private IP and not public IP. Watch this space over the next quarter.
GG: Approximately how many minutes are peered across your network monthly? Please describe the anticpated growth for the foreseeable future.
EK: It’s the early stages currently (only live four weeks), although the service has been subject to technical Research & Development for almost one year. The rate of growth has been phenomenal, with VoBBs from right across the globe signing up.
Our VoBB customers are already dealing with over 50 millions of minutes/month, and we anticipate a growing percentage of that traffic migrating to XConnect.
We anticipate 1 million genuine end users by end of 2005, and 3-5 million by 2006, enjoying settlement free multi-media IP communications.
GG: Please describe how Voice over Broadband providers go about peering using the XConnect service. What’s the general procedure?
EK: We’re pitching this as a “Plug and Peer” service, with a straightforward procedure:
1. Sign up for the service.
2. Complete interoperability testing with XConnect.
3. Utilise the XConnect ENUM service and mgmt tools.
4. Send and receive traffic.
Those VoBBs with NexTone equipment will enjoy an even faster procedure as NexTone has just been signed as the first certified XConnect-Ready technology partner, enabling off-the shelf interoperability.
I also had a chance to ask several questions of Alan Bugos, vice president of engineering at iBasis. iBasis is a founder Carrier member of the Xconnect Alliance.
GG: Please describe your relationship with XConnect and your role in facilitating VoIP Peering.
AB: iBasis is a founding carrier member of the XConnect Alliance. We have interconnected with XConnect through our DirectVoIP and DirectVoIP Broadband service, which enable fast and secure direct interconnections for the exchange of VoIP traffic. iBasis will provide XConnect members global termination to the PSTN, mobile and VoIP networks around the world, much as we do for about 300 other carriers.
GG: Why did you select XConnect for peering as opposed to other VoIP Peering outfits?
AB: XConnect may be the first of this type of interconnection for us, but we anticipate that there will be others. We are already a major carrier of international traffic for consumer VoIP providers like Skype and others. As the consumer VoIP space continues to expand, our interconnections with these providers and with peering exchanges like XConnect that facilitate and support the growth of consumer VoIP services will also expand.
GG: What are the main benefits that carriers can realize from peering traffic?
AB: In addition to commercial benefits (better rates, preferred routes, and capacity), peering traffic will benefit from improvements in overall VoIP interconnect security (for example, secure signaling and media; and dealing with SPIT — SPam over Internet Telephony), overcoming continued interoperability issues (systems and devices) which will allow for the “bridging of VoIP islands,” improvements in VoIP directory and signaling services (via ENUM), changes and further enhancements in VoIP regulation, and perhaps new emerging real-time consumer and business applications using SIP signaling and systems.
GG: What are some of the challenges facing the VoIP industry that may be overcome by the rise in peering?
AB: The numbering scheme is a key challenge, and the work innovators like XConnect are doing on ENUM (directory and routing services) may be a big step towards an effective solution. Additionally, peering relationships may benefit from working together; enhancing VoIP security, improved interoperability, enhanced intra-domain billing, in addition to overall enhancement of quality of service.