In a bold move to accelerate next-gen IP communications application development, Bandwidth.com said it plans to expose its network functionality to open-source telephony developers.
The new Developer Sandbox Program, which was announced Wednesday at the ClueCon Open Source Telephony Developers Conference, will offer a select group of developers access to IP communications network functionality, such as next gen VoIP codecs, the T.38 fax protocol, SIP-enabled SMS and HD voice. In addition, fixed-mobile convergence functionality from Bandwidth.com technology partners CounterPath Corp. and Ditech Networks also will be part of the Sandbox program.
The program also will leverage the FreePBX open-source telephony project, which was acquired by Bandwidth.com in November 2008. Separately, the carrier announced Wednesday the availability of a Developer’s Preview of FreePBX v3, which serves as a basis for the GUIs in AsteriskNOW and Trixbox CE as well as other open-source PBX offers. Significantly, FreePBX v3 is telephony-engine agnostic, and able to support FreeSWITCH, Asterisk and others.
Todd Barr, vice present of marketing for Bandwidth.com, said both open-source initiatives mark an unprecedented push for collaboration with developers.
Unlike other open-source sponsors that are looking to commercialize their software, Bandwidth.com is driving development of applications that will use its network. “We are trying to get developers to build more unique applications and give them network functionality, so they can work on converged-type applications, not just something that’s on the premises,” he said, noting it’s not just about developing cool applications, but about understanding how those applications interact with the network and how Bandwidth.com can make it work better.
While other carriers like Ribbit Corp. have APIs for developers, Bandwidth.com said it is going a step further in offering access to network functionality using open standards. “We will provide an API, but we will also provide something a little more fundamental where you can use any programming language or open source project,” Barr explained.
Jay Lyman, open-source analyst for The 451 Group, said “open source provides a community effect that is typically broader than what comes from available APIs.” And, he noted, Bandwidth.com’s support for open-source software platform for services riding its network is unique in the industry.
Barr conceded that the applications developed as a result of Bandwidth.com’s open-source project will accrue to the entire telecommunications community, but the carrier is counting on its network being able to support them more easily than many of its competitors, especially those encumbered by legacy technology.
Analyst Lyman said Bandwidth.com stands to benefit from its open-source software support, participation and use. “Since it already has a healthy customer base of 5,000 customers, it is able to invest in the FreePBX project and community without pressure for immediate revenue return, and this should help the company get the most out of its FreePBX involvement by monetizing services around the software, which it hopes to spread and grow.”
Barr said Bandwidth.com is looking for a select group of 10-20 developers to kick start the project, which it hopes to grow over time. Criteria for participation will be posted by mid-August, but Barr said he expected an application process wherein developers would submit project ideas for consideration. In addition, the developers will be chosen based on their past experiences developing telephony applications using open source or APIs.
The group will start small in order to make sure the process is supported sufficiently. Bandwidth.com necessarily will provide additional resources, such as mobile devices for testing FMC, DIDs or network minutes.