VOIP - a flawed technology?

VOIP can never be a real replacement for PSTN. It annoys me intensely when I hear vendors claiming that their VOIP telephony implementation is the ideal replacement for good old PSTN communications.

Don't get me wrong, VOIP is great for internal company communications, especially where the firm installs an IP-PBX in place of a traditional circuit-switched PBX.

But the IP standard was never designed with voice in mind. I had hoped that the packet prioritisation feature of the IPv6 standard would be implemented by at least some business ISPs, but this simply isn't going to happen.

The nett result is that VOIP telephony is great for free and low-cost personal voice calls, but unsuitable for business telephony when compared with the circuit-switched nature of the PSTN.

This is because, no matter what the vendor and supplier does, VOIP calls still have to progress across the public Internet, which is subject to packet delays and brownouts, as well as all manner of potential problems, which can mess with the overall integrity of the voice call.

Even assuming the packets that go to make up a VOIP call make it to the destination telephony servers, there's still significant potential for packet interception and call eavesdropping.

And that's before we worry about viruses and malware, which were the subject of a recent rant of mine.

I'm not alone in thinking this, as Forrester Research has just issued a damning new report on VOIP service suppliers such as Google, ICQ, Microsoft, Skype, and Yahoo.

The report found that, whilst more than half of European users have now heard of VoIP, but only eight per cent have actually tried it, and only four per cent have continued to use VOIP for some or all of their private calls.

"Unresolved issues with VoIP include inconsistent or poor call quality, a lack of interoperability between VoIP platforms, complicated set-ups and interface usability problems," says the report.

Still not convinced? Try Googling for the latest news on Vonage, one of the pioneers of VOIP in the US and see what's going on there...