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Monday, February 25, 2002

Be heard in voice over Internet
Sumesh Raizada

CONVERGENCE is going to be the next call in the IT world, which will possibly signal the next wave of IT revolution. Client-based programming careers are nowadays seeing a downtrend. However, careers in convergence are hot and have a promising future. One such career is in VOIP, or voice over Internet Protocol.

While this is not a new concept in the world of convergence, recent breakthroughs have brought careers in VOIP to the forefront. Moreover, with the opening up of the Indian telecommunication sector for international calls and the use of Internet for calls too, from April, the VOIP technology is going to be a hot option.


VOIP in its simplest sense means the transmission of voice over the Internet. The main attractions of VOIP include bridging manageability gaps and reducing IT expenditures for supporting disparate infrastructures. Thus, it could be a boon for the corporate sector; and once it spreads, it will open tremendous career opportunities. As of today, VOIP is still at the evolution stage and there is a lot of research and development work going on in this field. The application of VOIP could be in various sectors like call centres, hotels, airlines, and corporate offices that have a huge communication bill.

Basically this term is being used in IP telephony to represent a set of facilities required for delivering the voice over the Internet protocol. This is like sending and receiving data over the Internet in the form of packets. In the case of VOIP, voice is converted into digital form first and then delivered in the form of discrete packets rather than in the traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The mode of voice is being converted as opposed to the regular form of telephony, i.e., PSTN. Therefore, it is not restricted to the services of the PSTN service provider and could, therefore, be very cost effective also.

VOIP was basically derived from the VOIP forum, which was a consortium of major VOIP players like CISCO, VocalTech, 3Com, and Natspeak, etc., for promoting the use of ITU-T H.323, the standard for sending voice (audio) and video using IP on the public Internet and within an Intranet. The forum has its servers installed on various locations and offers directory services to the users to locate others using VOIP over the Internet. The advantage of VOIP over the regular IP is that the data in this case is being transmitted on a real-time basis without any delays using the RTP (real time protocol).

Since VOIP also uses public networks, it becomes difficult for maintaining the quality of service as the delays caused by public networks can bring it down. However, with private networks coming up, the quality is likely to get a major boost and this could be a turning point for VOIP, which is still languishing on the quality front.

Developments are also going on at the equipment manufacturers' level to boost the service. For example, a technique used by at least one equipment manufacturer, Netspeak, to help ensure faster packet delivery is to Packet Internet or Inter-Network Groper (ping) all possible network gateway computers that have access to the public network and choose the fastest path before establishing a transmission control protocol (TCP) sockets connection with the other end.

The technology behind VOIP is simple as the user of this service puts up a VOIP device such as Cisco's AS5300 access server at a gateway. This gateway receives packetised voice transmissions from users, who use the same server, and then transmits them to other users over a LAN or WAN, if it is confined to a particular area, or over the normal telephone system through the Internet, using the T-carrier system or E-carrier interface. This is how voice travels over the Internet.

As far as career options are concerned, there is going to be a wide spectrum of jobs, both technical and non-technical, in this field. The non-technical jobs include customer support, maintenance and marketing of VOIP services, etc. The technical jobs will be designing and maintaining the VOIP system and infrastructure, research and development, and technical support among others. Since there is a complete hardware infrastructure involved in VOIP, the career opportunities are varied in VOIP hardware with companies like CISCO, NORTEL, 3COM, NatSpeak, Vocaltech, etc. These opportunities have existed in the past and with the quality of service improving, the reach of VOIP is likely to go up substantially. This will offer new vistas and opportunities in the field of VOIP hardware.

Owing to the fact that VOIP would be a reality in India soon, there are going to be enormous opportunities in this filed. For pursuing a career in VOIP one has to have a degree in computers, which is the minimum. However, a degree in electronics or telecommunications would surely be better and more appropriate. One can also take up the courses being offered by CISCO and Nortel, which are specialised courses in the field of VOIP for advanced and more focused careers. Careers in VOIP are likely to be the most sought after in the time to come.