voice over IP

I would like to know more about:
1) VoIP,
2) the trends of VoIP,
3) future of VoIP in computer telephony,
4) What're the pros and cons of VoIP.
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In response to your question ... as always, there is no simple answer.  Many of the inherent issues of Voice over IP have been addressed (slight lag times that can be heard by the user) but the extensibility of the technology has not been proven out.  You might look at a company called Sento -- www.sento.com -- as they have an integrated customer care delivery system that utilizes V over IP and it is both compelling and in production with major players such as Network Associates & Gateway.

I've attached an article that reviews some of the benefits and drawbacks.

The crux of this article is: VoIP is definitely the future convergence
point, however it will take time to become ubiquitous.  All that circuit switching gear won't disappear overnight. IBM still makes money on SNA, right?
It highlights the difficulty of answering the question, "When
will VoIP become widespread?" Depending on the application and market,
either soon or not for a long time. Telecommuter applications, virtual
PBX extensions and VoIP trunking will come in the near to medium term.
PC to PC telephony in the public Internet and VoIP in the call center is just burgeoning.  
The last sentence of the article must be qualified with the assumption that telephony will evolve in a predictable way i.e. end devices will remain ciruit
switched and the packet transport will move out from the core of the network, finally reaching the end point by turning the analog phone into an etherphone.
However, this prediction ignores other technologies that are "racing against" the convergence in the network core -- cheap PCs and IP enabled appliances, rich browser-based interfaces, ubiquitous bandwidth, wireless etc. To illustrate this point, what might happen to voice in five years' time when a cheap, handheld multimedia PC with sound and video can be connected from the home or a cafe at megabits/sec (flat-billed regardless of data volume or packet destinations) and cell phones are as cheap to use as wireline phones?
This scenario is not too far out, judging by the products and services  appearing in the consumer market today.
     In fact, a completely different scenario might outpace the "standard"
     evolution prediction. The "Plain Old Telephone System" may be bypassed altogether by an integrated multimedia service using a packet transport all the way to the end point. The driver to this would be the rich communications
environment offered to the user. In that case, telephony will just become a part of a suite of services, all sharing a high speed connection.
   Circuit switches are old news, right? These massive mainframe-like
   systems with their proprietary software might well appear at first
   glance to represent the musty past of telecommunications, not a
   vibrant future built on more efficient and open packet-switching
   Debates may rage on as to whether Internet Protocol (IP)-based packet
   networks are reliable and scalable enough to become the all-purpose
   backbone for voice, data and video services, or whether Asynchronous
   Transfer Mode (ATM) still has a role to play at the network's core or
   edge. But no one argues that circuit switching is, in fact, a
   significant technology for the new millennium.
   Why are circuit switches selling in record numbers? Lucent
   Technologies, which is investing billions in developing new packet
   technology, arguably funds that research from an unprecedented level
   of sales of its 5ESS, a classic Class 5 telephone company central
   office (CO) circuit.
   "We're selling 5Es at the rate of at least one a day," says Frank
   D'Amelio, vice president of marketing and management for switching and
   access systems at Lucent. "Sales have never been better."
   Competitors such as Nortel Networks and Siemens Telecom Networks
   report similar interest in their CO switches, even as they develop
   packet switching alternatives and plan for the transition from circuit
   switching to packet switching for customers.
   All of which makes circuit switches more the Cinderella of public
   networks, rather than the ugly stepsister.
   "Lucent and Nortel are doing more business in CO switches than ever
   before for one simple reason: Voice still pays the bills," says Peter
   Bernstein, president of Infonautics Consulting. "New competitors
   coming into the market still need to have revenue, and voice service
   is the easiest way to begin to generate revenues."
   The explosion of local service competition in the U.S. following the
   Telecommunications Act of 1996 is responsible for one significant
   segment of circuit switch growth, according to Degas Communications
   Group analyst Mike Arellano. "All these new market entrants don't have
   existing switches, and they are buying switches with a lot of ports,"
   he says. "That's $1 [million] to $2 million per switch, every time
   they move into a new metro area or market."
   Many competitors are building networks from scratch and are looking at
   alternative technologies, such as voice-over-ATM and voice-over-IP,
   according to Bob Wohlford, director of business development at Nortel
   Networks' wireless and carrier solutions group. "Right now, it takes
   heroic efforts to build a network that provides for voice-over-ATM and
   voice-over-IP," he says. "Those heroic efforts are not being rewarded
   by higher prices - customers won't pay more for voice just to get it
   over a new technology platform."
   "Everyone talks about the cost benefits of voice-over-IP," Arellano
   says. "At $100 bucks a pop or less, circuit switching is a very
   inexpensive way to connect to the local loop."
   But there are other growth segments for circuit switching sales.
   Within the incumbent telephone company market, the final stages of
   transition are taking place from the old analog switches, most of them
   Lucent 1A-ESS switches, to digital CO switches.
   "We just recently have discontinued the manufacture of the 1A-ESS,"
   says Diane Herr, director of product management and marketing for
   Lucent's 7RE packet switch. "So incumbents are replacing analog
   switches with digital switches. In addition, there is growth in second
   lines that is expanding their switch purchasing."
   Incumbents are looking out of region as well. U S West has ventured
   out of its service territory as a competitive local exchange carrier
   (CLEC), and Ameritech and SBC Communications recently agreed to
   aggressively enter out-of-region markets in order to win the Federal
   Communications Commission's approval of their merger plan.
   But CLEC and competitive backbone network markets and out-of-region
   plays by the Bells are also the targets of new technology platforms
   designed to supplant circuit switches. To date, only two of the
   backbone builders - Enron Communications and Level 3 Communications -
   lay claim to building networks without circuit switches of any kind.
   Other options
   Enron is eliminating other legacy technologies, such as Synchronous
   Optical Network (SONET) transmission and ATM switching by putting IP
   directly onto its optical network. But Enron is providing backbone
   network services only for Internet service providers and other content
   developers, and its traffic patterns are well-established by customer
   contracts and not volatile like typical local telephone traffic.
   Level 3 is using SoftSwitch technology, developed by Lucent, to
   initially handle managed data in a network that uses
   IP-over-ATM-over-SONET, but it will add voice services to that mix over
   the SoftSwitch by year's end, according to spokesman David Power. The
   SoftSwitch approach separates call processing from the software used to
   provide voice service features, so that a full component of voice
   features can be provided over an IP network without using a circuit
   "Xcom, a CLEC which Level 3 purchased, had three circuit switches in
   its network - those have all been sold," Power says. "What we
   constantly look at is price performance. We want to achieve in the
   network what companies like Intel have done. They increase the speed
   of their chips every 18 months and lower the price."
   By contrast, Power says, it takes about 40 months for the price
   performance of a circuit switch to achieve the same goals.
   Frontier Networks recently signed with Lucent to use its SoftSwitch
   technology along with a voice services platform from Sonus, one of a
   growing list of start-up companies focused on developing the
   packet-based technology that will replace circuit switches.
   Another start-up, Salix Technologies, will have its first commercial
   services platform available late this year. The company believes the
   circuit switch alternative market could hit $2 billion to $3 billion
   by the year 2001.
   The question becomes how quickly the circuit switches of today will
   begin to be replaced by the packet-based technologies of tomorrow.
   There isn't a clear consensus on when the impact of that transition
   will be felt.
   "I think we'll begin to see the changeover fairly soon," says Greg
   Howard, an analyst at the HTRC consultancy. "I wouldn't expect circuit
   switch sales to continue to increase for very long."
   One place of immediate impact is in the tandem switch area, or
   trunking segment of the network. Today, incumbents in local and
   long-distance service use Class 4, or tandem, circuit switches to
   connect long-distance to local access networks. The proliferation of
   connections as new competitors come into the market and want to access
   the local net has prompted a search for alternatives.
   "We definitely see an immediate market in the tandem segment," says
   Lew Bobbit, vice president of marketing at Salix, which designed its
   switch to be "classless," or able to operate in either a local or
   tandem configuration.
   Lucent, Nortel and others also have designed packet switches intended
   to address the connection of trunk lines.
   Global boom
   Circuit switch makers also are eyeing markets such as Europe, where
   competition is just now coming into play. Not only are companies such
   as Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and Telecom Italia eyeing each
   other's customers, but newcomers and global players such as AT&T and
   MCI WorldCom are viewing Europe as a new growth market.
   In developing nations, where more than half the world's population
   exists and has never made a phone call, wireless options, both fixed
   and mobile, present the fastest way to build a telecom infrastructure;
   and most of those countries' networks will be built on circuit
   switches, according to Lucent's Herr.
   The ultimate issue is the transition to the next generation. For new
   carriers, progress will hinge on driving first costs out of the newer
   technologies, whereas for existing players it will be a matter of
   cementing transition plans.
   "If you were to jump ahead 10 years, you wouldn't see anything in the
   network that looks like a circuit switch," says Fred Harris, director
   of network planning and design at Sprint. "But the transition is going
   to take place over those 10 years. Gradually, other protocols will
   replace what TDM [Time Division Multiplexed] switches do today. It's
   just not going to happen overnight."
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I was reading somehere that there is free utility which allows you to call Phone-Phone in the US using callbacks.

So if you are #X and you wish to speak to #Y - you would type both numbers in that site and both would get a callback.

Does anyone know that URL or site ?

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