Voice Over IP Takes a Giant Step Forward

On Feb. 11, 2000, a phone call was placed from space shuttle Atlantis in orbit to NASA Flight Director Bob Castle at Mission Control in Houston.

Placing such a call using normal telecommunications lines ? assuming they were available ? probably would have cost a small fortune, even with 1-800-Collect. Instead, astronaut Marsha Ivins used a Cisco Systems IP SoftPhone and voice over IP technology and bypassed the toll charges. This one small step for Earth-to-space communications was one giant leap for voice over IP.

Voice over IP, or VoIP, is a term for a set of protocols that have been worked out by standards organizations, such as the International Telecommunications Union and the Internet Engineering Task Force. These standards facilitate delivery of high-quality, multimedia services, including voice telephony, across Internet protocol networks.

The ultimate objectives of companies such as Cisco Systems Inc., Clarent Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc. and Ericsson Inc. is to deliver voice telephony services across the Internet. Early implementations, however, have built upon the desire of organizations to consolidate voice and data network infrastructures within the enterprise and to reduce costs for adds, moves and other changes as workers change locations within offices.

Several government implementations of voice over IP have demonstrated the value of the technology within the enterprise context. One is the Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea).

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