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Leader of the Packet

Want to get serious about telephony services based on voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP)? Then make sure you keep up-to-date on the efforts by Michael Khalilian, chairman and president of the International Packet Communications Consortium. Formerly known as the International Softswitch Consortium, the IPCC pushes for worldwide standards and regulations concerning next-generation telephone services. B&C caught up with Khalilian at cable's National Show.

What is your sense of the state of VoIP?

When the unlimited capabilities provided by packet-communication architecture became available, it was a wake-up call. The cable companies saw an opportunity to have telephone service without traditional telephone-service equipment. Phone companies saw a better way to offer telephone and new services, with less space for equipment and more capability for the service creation. Wireless companies, with WiFi and cellular traffic, have IP to carry traffic. Every segment of the voice service market has found a positive use for packet telephony.

Who has the advantage?

From an industry perspective, the cable companies have the largest advantage because they have coaxial cable to a majority of U.S. homes. They can bundle high-speed Internet and add local and long distance, making it attractive to consumers.

What's the "wow factor" that gets a consumer to add phone service?

The regular consumer can see a low cost. If the cable companies offer a $10 local service and unlimited long distance for another $5, that's something the telephone companies can't do for less than $25-$50.

But would cable operators offer it that cheap?

It depends on the region and competition. If local and long distance cost $55, cable can save the customer $20 a month.

Are the pieces in place to make this a quick deployment?

There are two main parts to the deployment. One is the technical components, such as gateways and soft switches. The other is the regulatory side, meeting the requirements for 911, 411, and operator. All the components are in place, but it depends on how the carrier can put it together, integrate it, and offer it as a whole service. They can also offer half of it as a secondary line today and gradually build the primary-line service.

What will VoIP's status be a year from now?

[The goal] is to deploy the technology faster and more efficiently. We're trying to figure out what the issues are so that packet telephony doesn't become the next Betamax.