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Operators of All Sizes Dive Into SIP

Among the best-attended sessions on the first day of VoiceCon 2010, in San Francisco, was one entitled “SIP Trunking: Who’s Offering What.” Led by Lisa Pierce, the president of Strategic Networks Group, the panel featured speakers from AT&T Inc. (T), Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Global Crossing Ltd. (GLBC), and it offered an overview of what has become one of the most important areas of focus for enterprise IT and communications directors, and the vendors and carriers who serve them.

Heading into the show, Verizon Business said that it has been named a Microsoft SIP Trunking partner, meaning that the carrier’s SIP trunking offering, called Verizon IP Trunking, has been certified for the latest version of Microsoft’s Office Communications Server. The hookup allows companies to deploy Microsoft unified communications applications across the Verizon global IP network, using SIP trunking to connect local offices to the larger network.

Verizon thus becomes the latest carrier to release a comprehensive SIP-trunking product to support UC applications across far-flung and heterogeneous networks. Last September, Sprint made its own SIP trunking product widely available, giving business customers access to Sprint’s worldwide MPLS network via a single IP connection that handles voice, data, and video.

Smaller vendors are also hastening to release SIP trunking products: Grandstream Networks, a supplier of IP voice/video telephony equipment, announced that its IP PBX, known as the GXE502x series, and its gateways, are now interoperable with Skype for SIP, offering sizeable cost savings for outbound calls via Skype.

Enabling companies with both traditional and IP PBXs to connect to the PSTN via an Internet connection, session-initiation protocol (SIP) trunks offer significant cost-savings for businesses, allowing them to eliminate costly physical wire bundles and rate interfaces. To date, however, standards confusion, cautious enterprise approaches to migrating to SIP connections, and limited carrier offerings have combined to prevent the technology from fulfilling its promise. The activity around industry events like VoiceCon indicates that 2010 may be the year that changes.

As you might guess, research firms have renewed their optimistic forecasts for the SIP trunking market and for associated gear, like session border controllers. In its most recent Enterprise SBC Market Outlook, Infonetics Research said that the enterprise SBC market, driven by growing adoption of SIP trunking services, will grow at 49 percent a year through 2013.

Driving that growth is a concerted effort by carriers and vendors to reduce the complexity and confusion of what IDC research analyst Rebecca Swensen called the “plethora of disparate vendor solutions” available in the market the last few years. Interoperability has become a key differentiator, as carriers like Verizon, with its “Burstable Enterprise Shared Trunks” (BEST) offering, and XO Communications, with its Enterprise SIP Solution, attempt to leverage their end-to-end IP networks with SIP trunks.

While many carriers are still in the early phases of their SIP trunking deployments, enterprise demand will continue to drive the development of more universal SIP solutions. That’s good news for competitive services providers as well: According to Acme Packet, CLECs and cable operators in North America are rolling out SIP trunking twice as fast as the incumbent carriers.

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