Since its inception in the late 1990’s, Session Initiation Protocol or SIP has been gaining steady ground as one of the world’s leading protocols for data transfer and communications.   As the standard has evolved and gained industry-wide acceptance, increasing numbers of vendors and service providers have launched products and services based on the protocol, leading to the growth of a considerable marketplace in SIP-based commodities and service offerings.   The increasing adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in preference to traditional cable-based systems of telecommunication, and the rise of Unified Communications (UC) as an enterprise standard for integrated applications and productivity have contributed to this rise in prominence.   In this article, we’ll be looking at the various advantages offered by SIP to stakeholders at all levels (from sellers and service providers to the end user), and how Session Initiation Protocol is opening up new business opportunities in the IT and telecommunications sectors.  

SIP As A Solid Foundation

  Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) was established by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as a standard for establishing and controlling multimedia communications sessions in real time. The protocol covers voice, video, messaging, and conferencing, allowing endpoint devices that wish to communicate to locate each other, and negotiate the manner in which information is exchanged.  

Binding The UC Infrastructure

  In a Unified Communications (UC) environment, SIP performs a core set of four functions:  
  1. It allows users or devices to tell a UC system whether or not they’re available at any given time, and enables real-time presence to be established.
  2. SIP identifies what kind of devices are involved in a communication, and how best to set up the data transfer to each device.
  3. The protocol crafts each session, establishing the parameters for communication between the active parties.
  4. SIP is responsible for managing the communication (transferring lines, switching between media types or modes of transmission, terminating calls, etc.).
  By enabling UC applications and devices from different manufacturers to communicate and integrate with each other – and supporting enterprise features like presence, voice, video, and messaging – SIP becomes the common medium binding the various elements of a UC infrastructure together. This inter-operability and access to a wide range of features generates benefits and opportunities for participants at all levels of the value chain.  

Cost-Effectiveness & Savings

  SIP trunking exploits VoIP technology to allow traditional PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems to connect with data networks or the internet. Analogue or digital (ISDN) lines are replaced by a virtual phone system provided from the cloud via an internet connection. Not only does SIP trunking link IP phone switches together, it also provides links between IP PABX’s and applications like audio conferencing and Unified Messaging.   From the client’s perspective, SIP technology provides several advantages which are of direct benefit to the enterprise, including:  
  • Cost savings in comparison to standard ISDN, averaging at up to 50% on line rentals and 25% for call charges
  • Faster deployment of SIP trunks, with consolidation of voice and data on a single network to reduce costs, maintenance, and management overheads
  • Free calls between SIP-enabled sites, with number portability and the ability to acquire new numbers giving local or regional presence
  • Presence capabilities extending beyond the real-time status of users, to include business processes and devices
  • Real-time orchestration of personnel, devices, and business processes, leading to better co-ordination of logistics and operations
  • Inter-operability between systems and endpoints from multiple vendors, leading to better management of cloud-based infrastructures and resources

Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery (DR)

  By enabling multiple network carriers to serve a single data centre, SIP trunking increases the scope and options available to providers of business continuity, security, and Disaster Recovery (DR) services.   Enterprise clients wishing to assure their users of constant network and application availability, call centres looking to guarantee any time access to customer support and business lines, or those looking to preserve the integrity and availability of vital corporate data and intellectual property may call upon the fail-over capabilities made possible by having contracts with several providers.  

Extending Call & Voice Options

  Before the arrival of SIP, enterprises typically maintained a separate network infrastructure for telephony and video, in parallel with their IT data services. With the unification of communications and IT infrastructures under SIP, internet and company intranet users now have a marketplace of possibilities extending beyond simple voice communications and telephone calls.   In a single network session under SIP, users can enjoy direct person-to-person multimedia communications – in the form of VoIP calls, instant messaging, video conferencing, or using a presence panel to establish whether a person or business process is currently available.   Platform and application vendors and service providers are in a prime position to offer the tools, technology, and expert assistance required to facilitate the deployment of these augmented systems.   Channel partners and resellers can also benefit from the sale of virtual phone systems, numbering schemes, hosted PBX services and SIP trunking – with own-branded white label solutions and value-added services as revenue generating options.  

Combined Offerings & Innovations

  SIP and IP technologies have formed the backbone of several innovative business solutions packaging multi-part feature sets for the enterprise market.   For instance, the IMS (IP (Internet Protocol) Multimedia Subsystem) pioneered by Siemens and exhibited at the CommunicAsia trade conference in 2006 used SIP for chat, instant messaging, and other multimedia services in conjunction with VoIP telephony and conferencing.   Network services such as registration, flexible charging, billing, routing, roaming, secure identification, and the protection of confidential data can co-exist on an platform that integrates with similar systems from other manufacturers.   Other SIP-based offerings have been crafted as a mix of IP telephony with enterprise data centre and business processes, integrating voice into group-ware applications, and opening up new business opportunities for organisations to serve as voice and data service providers.   Bundling of features and value-added services are likely to figure large in a continuously evolving market.  

Easing The Transition From ISDN

  With the phasing out of ISDN and the older PSTN, providers and resellers are uniquely positioned to act as expert advisors and facilitators in the managed transition process that enterprise clients will need to undertake.   Hold-outs and industries like broadcasters and utilities companies that have been resisting the change will need skilled and trusted partners to help in making the change as painless and cost-effective as possible.   Clearly then, SIP and its related technologies have much to offer, and are continuing to open up business opportunities for players at all levels in the IT sector.    

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