Within a year of its birth, IP telephony technology had caught the world's attention. The technology has improved to a point where conversations are easily possible. And it continues to get better. Dozens of companies have introduced products to commercialize the technology, and virtually every major telecommunications company has launched research to better understand this latest threat to its markets.
In March of 1996, VocalTec announced it was working with an Intel Company (Dialogic Corporation, an Intel acquisition made in 1999) to produce the first IP telephony gateway. The original Internet telephone products based on multimedia PCs are tremendous - offering the ability to combine voice and data on one network. They also offer low-cost long distance "telephone" service (assuming the user already has a multimedia PC and a fixed-rate Internet service provider [ISP] account).
Gateways are the key to bringing IP telephony into the mainstream. By bridging the traditional circuit-switched telephony world with the Internet, gateways offer the advantages of IP telephony to the most common, cheapest, most mobile, and easiest-to-use terminal in the world: the standard telephone. Gateways also overcome another significant IP telephony problem: addressing. To address a remote user on a multimedia PC, you must know the user's Internet Protocol (IP) address. To address a remote user with a gateway product, you only need to know the user's phone number.
This paper provides a brief introduction on the origin of Internet telephony, how it is developed, and where it is going - including, information on the standards and technologies it will take to make it in this expansive new market.
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