Friday, April 18, 2008

Interoperability - The Unique Power of SIP-Based Video Communications

Today, Jon Arnold's powerful new site -- IP Convergence TV ( -- published the above-titled "power of SIP" article I wrote together with SightSpeed's Founder & CTO, Aron Rosenberg. I urge you to check out Jon's site -- compelling. And, the full text of our article is below:

Interoperability - The Unique Power of SIP-Based Video Communications

"At the venerable age of nine, the SIP standard for IP communications has matured to a point that now supports feature-rich voice and video over IP. In fact, SIP has now become the standard for Internet communications and interoperability. Wrinkles such as NAT transversal and incompatible implementation have been ironed out. Newer video codecs such as H.264 have achieved high quality video over IP within consumer broadband constraints. Gone are the days of choppy, unreliable, and unsatisfying video communications. Gone are the days that video communications requires mammoth expensive and inflexible hardware and infrastructure.

High-quality easy-to-use video communications is finally here and now and ready for mass adoption over the consumer Internet. Many players, including some of the best known global brands, are now focused on video communications for the first time and are motivated to further drive such demand. And, video communications holds unique promise for end users – i.e., the ability to “connect” and collaborate with others on an entirely different and personal level as compared to text chat and voice only.

SIP video technology is now available in software, hardware, DSP and other forms, enabling developers to design in any of a wide range of products, knowing that their SIP-compliant components will interoperate. That is the power of SIP. Today’s SIP video products range from MCUs, videophones, PC-controlled conference room systems, down to desktop PC clients and handheld WiFi-based units the size and shape of a cell phone or smaller. Most smartphones sold today support SIP – any developer can build an endpoint for it.

In contrast, the proprietary video codecs, audio codecs and protocols used by others are only available in software, making it impossible to openly develop a client that runs on anything other than a full-fledged computer.All this means that SIP’s open, published standards enable any developer to play to his or her strengths, without worrying about the rest of the Voice or Video IP ecosystem. In the process, SIP powers maximum innovation among all players.

SIP Players

“Players” include a fully established vertical marketplace of companies producing and deploying SIP endpoints, whether in software or hardware. Contrary to widespread belief, these players serve a marketplace much bigger than (non-SIP) Skype’s. Those using SIP telephony include subscribers to many providers who charge nothing for IP-to-IP calls and low rates for calls that are gatewayed off the network, to international PSTN destinations. SIP players also include enterprises that have junked their old PBX systems and phones in favor of SIP extensions and in-house or hosted SIP-based switching, and customers of incumbent carriers who’ve been forced by price and service competition to migrate their voice networks to VoIP. And, importantly, SIP players include video providers such as SightSpeed, whose underlying feature-rich SIP network can tie all these together while also providing best-in-class video services, to connect users in ways that nothing else can.

To end-point developers, SIP leaves a large marketplace in which to sell product. It also represents freedom from Skype and other proprietary technology licensing fees. To service providers, SIP represents a chance to leave the endpoint purchasing decision to customers if it so chooses, offloading the large burden of device support and maintenance in the process. Alternatively, a service provider can decide to pretest and certify a limited number of devices, or even build a closed community. All options are available with SIP.

To those players who provide both endpoint and services, SIP presents a unique opportunity to implement voice, video and data features to their fullest extent. Such providers recognize that server and various forms of clients match in protocol and feature range, from the smallest video device to the largest conference room equipment. These features include such things as integrated presence, universal buddy lists, IM-style text chat, and support for multiparty calls. SIP-based APIs could offer media handling, or an OS library, or access to a full SIP service with integrated billing and operational support. And in the tradition of open standards, SIP-based video providers can offer free use of their network and SIP servers, with which developers can try out their video-over-IP clients, widgets, and hardware, built from scratch to SIP standards or making use of licensed SIP components. Such a working laboratory presents a unified calling, chatting, presence, billing and PSTN infrastructure.

Equally important, these SIP service providers/client developers have large user bases that are hungry for the next product, device and software –ready market seeds. That’s the power of SIP. Unlike proprietary “walled garden” networks and approaches like Skype, SIP promotes an open world of communications that gives both developers – and users – the most flexibility, choice, and best overall experience. SIP is the common language of interoperability that, like communications itself, connects users wherever they may be. Individual proprietary approaches cannot match – or even approach -- the power, reach and overall market opportunity enabled by SIP."

I welcome everyone's comments to this article.