The VoIP insurgence over the last decade marks a milestone in communication history no less historic than Alexander Graham Bell's first voice transmission over wire in 1876.
Data networks and packetized voice will eventually displace the long standing pre-VoIP world initiated by the invention of the telephone.
The roots of the VoIP revolution trace back to four synchronistic events in 1968. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled MCI could compete with AT&T using microwave transport on the Chicago to St. Louis route. The same year, the FCC’s Carterfone decision forced AT&T to allow customers to attach non-Western Electric equipment, such as new telephones, and modems, to the telephone network. The Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Project Agency issued a contract to Bolt Beranek and Newman for a precursor to the Internet. And in July 1968, Andrew Grove and Gordon Moore founded Intel. Innovation in the communication sector remained the proprietary right of AT&T for most the 20th century, but the barriers that kept the telecom and information technology industries separate were waning.
The Internet telephony industry began in 1995, when experienced Internet users began to transfer voice messages from one PC to another. In 1995, VocalTec Communications, Ltd. ("VocalTec") introduced software that allowed PC users to place international calls via the Internet to other PC users for the price of a local call. In its early months, the growth of Internet telephony was constrained due to the poor sound quality of the calls and because calls were mainly limited to those placed from one PC to another. The poor sound quality of Internet telephony was due to the fact that the Internet was not created to provide for simultaneous voice traffic. Unlike conventional voice communication circuits, in which the entire circuit is reserved for a call, Internet telephony uses packet switching technology, in which voice data is divided into discrete packets that are transmitted over the Internet. The packets must travel through several routers in order to reach their destination, which may cause misrouting, and delays in transmission and reception. The limited capacity of the Internet also restrained the growth rate of Internet telepony.
Improvements in technology have overcome many of the initial developmental shortcomings of Internet telephony. New software algorithms have substantially reduced delays and the use of private networks or intranets to transmit calls as an alternative to the public Internet has alleviated capacity problems. The introduction of gateway servers connecting packet-switched data networks such as the Internet to circuit-switched public telephone networks has also improved overall transmission quality. Developments in hardware, software and networks are expected to continue to improve the quality and viabilty of Internet telephony.
Following is a timeline of the notable players in the business:
October 23, 1997: Franklin Telecom held a meeting atop the Manufactures Hanover building in New York, where they introduced a Data Voice Gateway ("DVG") allowing the Company to provide 'telephone to telephone' long distance telephone service over the Internet and frame relay circuits.
December 22, 1997: Qwest Communications International became the first nationwide provider of Internet Protocol telephony and fax services over its own network, in Jan. 1998, promising to bring the low-priced voice services to large businesses later in 1998.
June 15, 1998: Franklin Telecom announced that FNet Corp., its next generation telephone company, purchased and will operate an 11-site satellite telephone network used by NATO troops stationed throughout Bosnia.
January 25, 1999: FNet Corp., Franklin Telecom's Next Generation telephone company, is the first carrier to establish telephone service for NATO serving multinational forces situated at locations near Kosovo.
March 1, 1999: Franklin Telecom Introduces Internet Gatekeeper; Franklin Gatekeeper Optimizes VoIP Interoperability. Franklin's Tempest(R) Data Voice Gateway Systems equipped with the Gatekeeper can enable Computer to Phone, Computer to Computer and Web to Call Center communications.
March 22, 1999: Franklin Telecom announced that it planned to demonstrate its Tempest System VoIP family of products at CeBIT Hannover, which ran through March 24th in Hannover, Germany.
May 27, 1999: Franklin Telecom announced that it had received the initial releases and payment for a IP Telephony network which will be located in California, Brazil, Ivory Coast in Africa, Lebanon, Azerbaijan and China.
June 2, 1999: Franklin Telecom announced the addition of a 96-port Data Voice gateway (DVG) to the existing Tempest(R) System line of products.
June 7, 1999: Voice-over-IP services continue to gain momentum. New products enabled wireless voice-over-IP services, as well as the large-scale deployment of the services by telecom service providers. Lucent Technologies Inc. disclosed market trials of a technology that sent voice and data over a wireless IP network.
November 13, 2000: Franklin Telecom announced the sale and initial delivery of two POP-in-a-Rack(TM) VoIP systems to TGA International, an Israel-based trading and telecommunications services company.
November 20, 2000: A computer-telephony integration application--a call-center staple--from Apropos Technology Inc. works in tandem with the 3Com voice-over-IP system. Apropos performs interaction management, directing calls to different queues and managing different types of media--voice, faxes, and E-mails. The call center averages about 6,000 calls per month.
September 5, 2001: AT&T Corp. expanded its voice over IP (VoIP) service to its managed data network services division in more than 40 countries. AT&T began offering VoIP retail services for business in January of 2001.
February 21, 2002: Lawrence Surtees, senior telecom analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC) Canada in Toronto, noted that the number of minutes of business use of voice on an IP network in Canada hit 20.8 million in 2001.
March 2002: Vonage officially launches its service in March.
December 11, 2003: (Karren Mills, AP Business Writer - InformationWeek) Qwest Communications International Inc. became the first Baby Bell to offer residential Internet phone service. And AT&T Corp., which already provided such service to hundreds of business customers, announced that it would broaden its Internet telephony offerings in 2004 to consumers.
Mar 31, 2004: Jeff Pulver, one of the most recognized people in the voice over IP arena, says the industry is in still in the early adopter stage and there's "lot's of opportunities" to make the technology better.
May 18, 2004: Cisco And IBM Team On Voice Over IP. "We intend to integrate Cisco's IP Communications with IBM's integrated industry solutions," Doug Elix, senior VP and group executive of IBM sales and distribution, said in a statement.
2004: Vonage and Circuit City are the first to offer VoIP services nationwide in retail stores.
February 7, 2005: (By Paul Travis InformationWeek) The VoIP Security Alliance is formed to uncover and fight viruses, worms, and other security threats aimed at the technology.
February, 29, 2005: Franklin Telecom announced that it signed two Customer Agreements for their new Cisco H.323 communications interface, dubbed the HandShake, which allows Franklin Tempest® VoIP units to 'talk' to Cisco VoIP units. Frank Peters, stated, "Despite severe financial difficulties brought on by slowing sales and the sluggish general economy, Franklin has been working on the HandShake and additional products which will allow increased network integration. Much as humans shake hands to seal a business alliance, the HandShake signifies a new association in technological communication."
June 5, 2006: Latest sign voice over IP was getting big: Linksys, the networking hardware company, started selling the phones. It unveiled two models, the $220 WIP300 and the $370 WIP330, that carried VoIP calls on 802.11g wireless networks.
July 2006: Vonage acquires three key VoIP patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 4,782,485, 5,018,136 and 5,444,707) from Digital Packet Licensing Inc.
October 2008: Vonage reaches major milestone with its first organic technology patent (No. 7,417,981), called "Method and Apparatus for Enhanced Internet Telephony."
December 09, 2008: Microsoft opens Swiss R&D center for Voice-over-IP.
December 31, 2008: Vonage subscriber lines reach more than 2.6 million