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TI helps Net telephony providers manage devices

Texas Instruments software aims to help VoIP operators troubleshoot problems and automatically adjust their networks.

Texas Instruments has developed software that aims to help Internet telephony operators better manage devices sitting in their customers' homes and offices.

On Monday, the company plans to unveil the software called Piqua that sits in voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gateways, such as those sold by Linksys or D-Link, and VoIP phones. The software can detect and automatically make adjustments to ensure better calling quality.

For example, if there is an echo on the call, the software can detect it and automatically fix the problem. In the past, the TI software might discover the echo problem, but a technician would have to manually tweak the network to correct the issue. Now problems can be fixed even before customers notice there is an issue, TI said.

The Piqua software also can help technicians in the VoIP provider's call center diagnose problems more efficiently and effectively by giving them more visibility into the device, the company said.

"In an IP service, like VoIP, the intelligence is in the phone and not at the central office, like it is in the traditional phone network," said William Simmelink, general manager of the packet voice and video business unit for TI. "So it's important for technicians in a call center to be able to control the devices sitting at the customer site."

IP telephony, which allows broadband connections to double as telephone lines, is still a small portion of the overall telephony market, but it's growing. Consumers are attracted by low-price services from companies such as Vonage. But some customers become frustrated early on in their VoIP experience, because they have problems setting up the equipment at home.

Troubleshooting problems with a technician on the phone can turn into marathon ordeals where the problem is still unresolved at the end of the day. And all too often, customers blame the VoIP devices for their troubles, which they often send back to the service provider. But most times, the device is fine--it just wasn't configured properly, said Lindsay Schroth, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group.

"VoIP operators in general are finding that customers are having issues configuring their service and with the quality of the calls," Schroth said. "These problems are hard to diagnose remotely. And providers spend a lot of money on supporting calls and rolling trucks to correct the problems."

Software tools like the one developed by TI could help reduce the cost of managing these devices, Schroth added. Automating the basic fixes to improve quality will allow VoIP providers to serve customers much more efficiently, she said.