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3/13/2008
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Spring VON More Than Voice Over IP

Look for wireless, video, business apps, and social networking to enter the VoIP lexicon next week in San Jose.

Blending packetized voice with wireless and multimedia apps is expected to dominate the agenda at the Spring VON conference, which starts Monday in San Jose, Calif.

"How does VoIP get to the next level?" said Carl Ford, VP of content and community development for Pulvermedia, the show's organizer. "That's the question attendees and exhibitors will be addressing." A few of the keynoters will likely take a crack at it, too, including Anand Chandresekher, an Intel senior VP; Ben Vos, VP of core technologies for Sprint; and Veli-Pekka Kivimaki, senior program manager for Nokia. Pulvermedia expects around 3,000 attendees and more than 175 exhibitors at the show, which runs March 17-20. The conference side of the program has been broken into tracks that address not just voice but also IP video, as well as wireless, unified communication, and an innovators' forum.

According to Ford, the issue of whether VoIP can transcend its niche status and find a place within enterprises and the mass market has already been settled. How it's most likely to evolve is up for discussion at the VON.x Town Hall Meeting, whose panelists will include Lowell Feldman, CEO of Feature Group IP; Link Hoewing, an assistant VP at Verizon; Larry Irving, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance; and Rick Whitt, an attorney with Google.

Another general session later in the week will address new uses for VoIP: social networking, accessing other business apps, and sending or receiving video. The Real-Time Social Communications panel will include Jonathan Christensen, general manager for video and audio for Skype; Brad Hunstable, founder of Ustream.tv; Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic; Robert Scoble, managing director of Fast Company; and Ramu Sunkara, CEO of Qik.com.

Pulvermedia's Ford pointed to a couple of wireless issues that will influence how VoIP gets used. First is the advent of femtocells -- small, indoor access points that connect to a service provider's network via cable modem or DSL, as one area of opportunity and concern. "You want femtocells as close [to the subscriber] as possible," he said, for best signal strength and clarity.

Ford also mentioned the ongoing 700-MHz spectrum auctions, in which Google was expected to figure prominently among the winners. How the technology powerhouse deploys its new spectrum could open up lots of new applications for wireless VoIP users as well.

Christopher Fine, a VP for Goldman Sachs, will address a big piece of that in his Tuesday session, "Looking Forward: A New World of Communication and Collaboration for Businesses and Their Employees."

From a regulatory perspective, VoIP has also transcended its newcomer status; lawmakers and regulators no longer view it as a tax vehicle or something they need to restrict. Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt will speak to these issues at the show and offer up his perspective on Washington's view of VoIP.

In parallel, how VoIP works with E911 services can be a legal and PR nightmare, as the cellular industry discovered a few years ago. Ron Bonneau, a VP with the National Emergency Number Association will tackle the topic in a Monday address titled, "Emergency Services and the Internet."

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