IP gains support as sole network protocol

Network traffic
is shifting from mostly voice to mostly data.

The Internet Protocol is on the verge of communications dominance, based on the product
demonstrations and sessions at the ComNet conference in Washington last month.

As John Chambers, president and chief executive officer of Cisco Systems Inc. of San
Jose, Calif., said: Who wants or needs any network protocol except IP?

“Circuit switches and private branch exchanges are dinosaurs,” Chambers told
an audience at ComNet. In the post-circuit world he envisions, voice and video will merely
be subspecies of data that get a free ride over IP networks.

Lucent Technologies Inc., however, does not plan to put all its eggs in the IP basket.
“We can’t serve a single protocol model,” said Lance B. Boxer, president of
the Murray Hill, N.J., company’s communications software group. “Software is
going to be growing at very excessive rates.”

For Cisco, IP has paid off to the tune of $500 million a year in savings. Cisco began
taking orders over the Internet four years ago and now gets 72 percent of its business
that way, Chambers said.

As network traffic tilts from mostly voice to mostly data, there is no reason to
maintain separate networks for voice alone, he said. Nor can users generally tell the
difference between conventional telephone calls and IP calls.

Lucent, which put one foot into the voice-over-IP market with the PacketStar IP Gateway
1000 family, expects such products not only to cut organizations’ telecommunications
costs but also to evolve new functions.

Nevertheless, voice over IP is not synonymous with “voice over the Internet,”
said Chris T. Schoettle, vice president of IP communications in Lucent’s Data
Networking Systems group.

“In my opinion, the Internet in 1999 is not an environment where you will see
guaranteed quality of service” like that of commercial voice traffic, he said.

Observers might scoff at the notion that service providers will let voice traffic ride
for free over networks of any kind.

But the General Services Administration’s FTS 2001 program already has made
long-distance telephone service a cheap, flat-rate commodity that will cost agencies less
than a penny per minute within eight years.

All the same, Schoettle said, the service providers somehow will have to recoup their
costs for voice traffic, regardless of the protocol that carries it.  

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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