VOIP Roadblocks

In my view, there are two major impediments to future VOIP expansion. However, I don’t see a lot of commentators writing about them:

– Security
– Hotspot access using wifi handsets

Security

SIP based VOIP protocols support the use of encryption. Some Analog Telephone Adapters (such as the Sipura 3000) and certain limited models of VOIP phones (such as certain ZIP phones made by Zultys) incorporate the facilities to use encryption between the same manufacturer’s products. However, most products don’t support encryption or it is too difficult to set up. What is going to happen to the VOIP industry when the first high profile interception is reported? Why aren’t manufacturers adding interoperable encryption to all of their products? Why aren’t Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSPs) offering services that support encryption with compatible phones? Even large ITSPs such as Vonage, whose customers must utilize locked ATAs, cannot utilize encryption. There’s definitely a marketing advantage for an ITSP to be the first to offer higher security for its customers.

HotSpot Access from Wifi Handsets

This year saw many new vendors offering voip wifi handsets. However, every handset I’ve heard of does not include a built in browser. Some vendors are adding email clients or IM clients but, as far as I know, no one is adding even a small mini-browser. Why is a browser important? Because these handsets can’t be used with the increasing number of public hotspots that require authentication. A high proportion of even the ones that provide free wifi access (at select hotels, airport lounges, etc.) still require visitors to click through a “terms of use” or click on an “I agree” button. No browser = No access.

For example, Net2Phone, a well known voip service provider offers a Voiceline XJ100 Wifi Handset for use with its service but has the following to say in its FAQ:

Will the XJ100 operate at pay hotspots?
Since the XJ100 does not have an HTTP browser, it will not operate at hotspots that use HTTP redirect and log-on or HTTPs, which includes most pay hotspots.

Some ITSPs are making deals with certain hotspot operators to allow passage of their SIP traffic – however, this is not a universal solution and significantly limits where such ITSP’s handsets can be used. We need a solution to this problem in order to really enjoy the benefits of VOIP.