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April 12, 2012

The Death of Enterprise SIP Federation, Not of the E-SBC


By Contributing Editor



Enterprise SIP federation used to be a big deal, but you don't hear a lot about it anymore. Yet hardware vendors are rolling out shiny new enterprise SBCs (E-SBC) left and right. What gives?

The idea of enterprise SIP federation was arguably inspired by the "stick it to the man" attitude in the VoIP community, allowing businesses to directly exchange voice calls via IP without termination and long-distance charges. As SIP grew in popularity and use, so did applications for enterprise SIP federation, encompassing seamless videoconferencing and other unified communications applications (UC) between companies.


Feeding the idea back in the day was an appearance of tone-deafness among carriers to enable SIP exchange within their networks...unless, of course, it could be monetized. 

Now, it is true there are businesses that have set up SIP federation among themselves, but it's not a big movement. For a large enterprise, there are security concerns, legal liabilities and management overhead.   Network management is complex enough as it is before you start tweaking your SBC to start setting up SIP exchanges with a bunch of business partners. One or two or ten federation "partners" might be manageable before the lawyers get involved, but scaling the numbers upward gets into adding resources for setup and monitoring.

Today, service providers are starting to SIP federate within their networks. Verizon Business' VIPER SIP service s the largest announced in-network business SIP federation and works on an opt-in basis for Verizon VoIP customers. While Verizon underlines VIPER's ability to reduce voice per-minute use charges for local and long distance calling, the service also officially supports video.   

VIPER is a free service. There are no charges for on-net traffic, so it’s a no-brainer for enterprises to join. With about 90 percent of new Verizon VoIP customers opting in, others don't do so, often because of local regulatory concerns.

At Enterprise Connect 2012, Level 3 said it would be introducing SIP federation/exchange for its network customers later this year. It would also be SIP peering with other carriers.

No doubt other carriers will make their own in-network and SIP peering announcements moving forward, as the need to exchange HD voice calls between subsidiaries and other carriers feeds the need to peer. If SIP voice (preferably HD voice) and video exchange are officially supported by carriers, this meets most of today's requirements for businesses – and reduces/eliminates the need for do-it-yourself SIP federation. 

A boom in SIP connectivity translates to a boom into enterprise SBCs of all shapes and sizes, as service providers work to include SBC functionality as a part of IP connectivity packages for businesses of all sizes.  

ADTRAN introduced its E-SBC software at Enterprise Connect last month, supporting 25 and 100 concurrent sessions. Not to be forgotten, Acme Packet announced at the same show its SBC products had been certified to work with Microsoft Lync.




Edited by Braden Becker