Skype and VoIP

March 2nd, 2006 § 0 comments

Over the past 18 months or so, it’s been very interesting to see VoIP technology enter the mainstream. I say “enter the mainstream” because the idea of encoding voice digitally and sending it via Internet Protocol is a reasonably elderly concept, at least in Internet terms. I remember playing with H.323 and NetMeeting back in about 6th grade, at least eight years ago.

That said, the widespread deployment of broadband over the past few years, combined with a couple of innovations to accompany VoIP has allowed almost anyone to make use of the technology, with very little overhead cost. Specifically, those innovations are SIP and Skype. The former, Session Initiation Protocol, is the force behind services like Vonage, where the goal is to replace landline telco services for the consumer and small business. For a short while, I had a Vonage telephone line and was very pleased with the performance. I’ve also experimented with Asterisk (http://www.asterisk.org/), the Open Source IP PBX and while I didn’t get to deploy it properly, it was an extremely impressive piece of software, and a real gem of the OSS world. SIP allows end-to-end connectivity to be made easily without need for extensive firewall modification, which I recall was a constant problem with my early dealings with VoIP.
More recently, I’ve been toying with Skype. Though it’s not as popular in the United States as it is in Europe and Asia, Skype is impressive. Created by the same developers as the KaZaA Peer-to-Peer network, Skype leverages P2P networking for one-to-one or many-to-many voice and video data. It’s extraordinarily easy to use, the quality is impressive, and the video support, though it’s still in beta, is pretty decent.

If you’ve got some spare time on your hands, and have the hardware (a microphone is the only prerequisite), grab yourself a copy from http://www.skype.com and give it a shot. You can reach me via the Skype username guydickinson, though if you look up my email address (guy@gdickinson.co.uk), you can find me that way, too.

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