VocalTec embraces traditional and IP protocols

VocalTec Communications Ltd. this week released its carrier-grade softswitch, which VocalTec is initially targeting at long-distance carriers that want to take advantage of the lower cost of IP versus traditional voice.

The gear known collectively as Essentra handles multiple traditional and IP protocols to switch phone traffic among different types of networks, VocalTec says.

Essentra includes four software products that run on Sun Solaris Netra servers: Essentra MGC, a media gateway controller; SG131/231/520, a signalling gateway; Essentra OSS Server, operations support system software for managing the other Essentra software products; and a session initiation protocol (SIP) server.

The software products work in conjunction with media gateway hardware made by partner companies, including Telica and Audio Codes.

Maintaining tight relationships with the hardware makers will be the biggest challenge facing VocalTec because its software must work with the other vendors’ hardware as if they were made by the same company, says Christin Flynn, director of communications network infrastructure for the Yankee Group.

VocalTec may have an advantage over competitors because its earlier softswitch products are installed in networks around the world, Flynn says.

Support for SIP gives Essentra the ability to interface with other SIP-based devices such as application servers, which define services that providers can offer on their networks. The SIP interface will enable quick development of custom services as well as integrating with service applications written by third parties.

SIP enables services that blend communications media such as text, voice and video. Previously VocalTec focused on the H.323 protocol for packet voice, and Essentra continues this support but adds SIP as well.

VocalTec has faced declining revenues over the past several quarters, but so have other vendors, Flynn notes. The company faces competition from giants such as Nortel and from smaller softswitch specialists such as Sonus and Taqua.

Flynn says partnering with media gateway hardware vendors will help keep VocalTec’s costs down because building and upgrading hardware is expensive.

Essentra is available now and pricing depends on the size and scope of each network.