Most people associate the beginning of Voice over IP (VoIP) with the introduction of mass-market services in late 2003 / early 2004. In reality, VoIP began a long time before that in the 1970s.
Back then it had another acronym, NVP, which stood for Network Voice Protocol. It was first developed in 1973 by Danny Cohen and others in order to carry real time voice over Arpanet, the precursor to today’s internet. The first test was carried out in August 1974. It carried 16k CVSD encoded voice over Arpanet.
In the next ten years, Danny Cohen and his team continued to work on networks and made some important decisions including the separation of IP from TCP. Whereas the IP protocol deals only with packets, TCP enables two hosts to establish a connection and exchange streams of data.
The next big milestone came in 1985 when the National Science Foundation Network was created. It later became the backbone for the internet. This is what really started the interest in VoIP. Companies like StratCom began developing commercial packet voice products and many organisations investigated Voice over ATM.
It was in the early nineties and not the noughties that the world saw the first VoIP services come onto the market. In 1991, the first VoIP application was released in the public domain. This was
Speak Freely. Then 1994 saw freeware VoIP application for Linux, MTALK, being released. A year after that standardisation activities for VoIP communications system were initiated by Intel, Microsoft and Radvision.
Late in the nineties was when commercial business VoIP services began to thrive. This was due to a number of things. The
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) specification RFC 2543 was released and Mark Spencer of Digium developed the first open source private branch exchange (PBX) software (Asterisk).
The Skype revolution
Despite there already being a number of consumer focused VoIP applications available, when Skype was initially released in August 2003, it is seen as the turning point. The potential of VoIP was recognised very quickly by consumers and businesses.
Two years later, Skype was bought by eBay for $2.6 billion. It then went on to be acquired by Microsoft in May 2011 for $8.5 billion. As mentioned last week its growth is phenomenal, particularly in the international call market, and we don’t see it slowing anytime soon.
Of course, VoIP is only as good as the connection a user has. Both Obama and Cameron have now stated that internet connectivity is a human right so how much longer can the landline really survive?