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NetSpeak plans telephony giveaway

The IP telephony company plans to give away its technology so that manufacturers can test it and ensure their own products are compatible.

A company in the nascent Internet telephony market hopes ubiquity will equal profits down the road.

NetSpeak has decided to give away its technology that allows users to make phone calls over the Internet so that cellular phone, cable modem, and set-top box manufacturers can test the technology and ensure their own products are compatible.

Analyst Brian Stachman, of market researcher Cahners In-stat, says NetSpeak's giveaway is a calculated move, one that could help it increase brand recognition to sell more of its high-end products. NetSpeak also sells gateway servers, which help route voice over the Internet.

"It's a smart way of getting penetration into this market," Stachman said.

NetSpeak's aim is to speed up development and compatibility of Internet telephony equipment that uses the Simple Gateway Control Protocol/Media Gateway Control Protocol (SGCP/MGCP). This proposed standard enables phone calls over the Internet with cellular and wireless devices, said Jim Kwock, NetSpeak's vice president of marketing.

NetSpeak's technology, called "call agents," sets up the process of making Internet phone calls with wireless devices, making the placement of a phone call over the Net more user-friendly.

"We feel it's important to put our technology out on the Internet, so other device providers have something to test their devices with, rather than developing their own call agent," Kwock said.

The SGCP/MGCP protocol is being considered by the Internet Engineering Task Force, an industry standards body.

Another proposed standard for IP telephony is making strides to becoming a formal standard. ITXC, Lucent Technologies and VocalTec Communications said today the International Telecommunications Union gave preliminary approval to H.323 technology that will allow IP telephony providers to create interoperable platforms.

H.323 is a common standard for transmitting voice over the Internet, allowing an AT&T customer to make an IP call to a Sprint customer, for example. Current systems do not allow different carriers to communicate. SGCP/MGCP, on the other hand, helps administer or control gateway servers, Stachman said.

NetSpeak also supports the H.323 standard, also named, "iNow!" A final decision on iNow! is expected in May.