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VoIP Standards Overview

VoIP is a new technology and still does not have universal standards. This makes it difficult for network managers to integrate the products obtained from different vendors. In the absence of standards, vendors come out with proprietary standards that make interoperability a difficult proposition for enterprises. This is where the “standards bodies” come into the picture. These bodies are made up of the inventors, developers, vendors who have an interest in a particular technology.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Internet Society define VoIP standards. The ITU has its headquarters in Geneva and was established in the 1860’s in order to develop standards for telegraph communications. The ITU is divided into ITU-R, ITU-T, and ITU-D. These are the Radio Communication Sector, the Telecommunications Standardization Sector, and the Telecommunications Development Sector, respectively. The ISDN and ATM standards for telecommunications have been developed by ITU-T. The standards can be identified on the basis of a letter that is assigned to a particular aspect of that technology. ITU-T standards that begin with H relate to audiovisual and multimedia. VoIP is covered under this group of standards. ITU-T standards can be viewed online. The Internet Society has been involved in issues related to the Internet since 1992. It concentrates more on packet switching and data transmission issues.

The Internet Society also works as small groups such as the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), etc. Internet Standards, also known as Request for Comments or RFC documents are developed by the IETF. Some well-known RFCs include the Hypertext Transmission Protocol (HTTP), RFC 2616, and the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), RFC 3261. Organizations such as the American National Standards Institute and the European National Standards Institute also influence standards but at a less broad level.

A company that wishes to implement VoIP should try and get an understanding of the standards that govern their VoIP devices and applications. This is because applications that follow the ITU-T specifications may have different networking and architecture issues than those that follow the IETF standards. Knowledge of the standards will help in making the right product decisions and also help to solve interoperability issues.

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