The Age of “Open” Telephony

Are we entering a new age of telephony, one where the old rules don’t apply and new opportunities exist? Several developing trends suggest that the telephone industry (typically very slow to change) is headed for a big shake up. What is the catalyst for this change? Technology, of course.

Who can deny the impact that the development of open standards for phone-based applications – VoiceXML, CCXML, SRGS, etc. – has had on the vendor community. Are there even any vendors left that don’t support VoiceXML? One article discussing how these standards are creating new opportunities appears in the recent issue of VoiceXML Review. Its focus is a discussion of the feasibility of using CCXML to create a software PBX.

Other trends are also driving change, like the emergence of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the maturity of new open source software products like Asterisk. A nice article discussing the impact that Asterisk is having on the telephone industry can be found on the O’Reilly OnLAMP site. There is also an interview with Mark Spencer of Digium (the company that makes Asterisk) available from CNET News. To put this trend into perspective, using open source tools like Asterisk:

With a Linux server, off-the-shelf LAN/WAN hardware, a broadband connection, and SIP-compatible telephone handsets, one can now build a fully functional telephone system, complete with high-end features.

Will the telephone industry ever be the same again? Probably not ““ and that is hugely important for governments as major users of telephone services. It’s also critical given government’s regulatory oversight and tax administration role over the telephone industry.