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Clearwire To 'Certify' VoIP Providers

The wireless provider proposes a partner program to learn technical specifics so it won't inadvertently block VoIP services.
BOSTON -- While Clearwire executives won’t say “block” and “Vonage” in the same sentence, the company is nevertheless readying a plan to partner with independent Voice over IP providers to technically certify their services so they won’t be inadvertantly interruped by Clearwire, according to a company presentation here at the Fall VON show Wednesday.

Rob Mechaley, executive vice president and chief technical officer for the Craig McCaw-backed wireless broadband service startup, said Clearwire on Sept. 30 will officially unveil a “Clearwire Certified” program, under which VoIP providers can exchange technical know-how with Clearwire so that the service provider can better manage its network.

According to Mechaley, the “physics of a wireless network” like Clearwire’s are much different than traditional copper- and fiber-based networks, necessitating extra-vigilant network monitoring by Clearwire administrators. While Mechaley adamantly denied that Clearwire had purposely blocked any independent VoIP providers -- “we manage our network effectively,” he said -- the new program, he said, is designed to eliminate any confusion between Clearwire and independent VoIP providers.

“To us, [VoIP traffic] can sometimes look like a port scanner taking over a computer,” Mechaley claimed. By sharing technical information about what VoIP services might look like on the network, Mechaley said Clearwire would be better informed and better equipped to deal with any customer problems that might arise from the use of independent voice services over Clearwire’s broadband offerings.

Even if a Clearwire customer is using an independent VoIP service, Mechaley said the first call if there is a problem usually goes to the service provider.

“It’s the curse of being the access provider,” Mechaley said. “If we work together [with VoIP providers], we can know more than by working apart.”

Mechaley did not offer any more details on the provider partner program, other than to say there would be an enrollment form available on the company’s Web site on Sept. 30. Clearwire had previously announced plans to offer its own VoIP service, which Mechaley said will likely be available later this year.