Keeping IP Voice Alive Even When the Power Dies

AUSTIN, TEXAS (02/17/2000) - General Bandwidth Inc. has a new way around the sticky voice-over-IP service problem of phones dying during power outages.

Until now, customers have had to run a separate analog voice line as a backup, or use an uninterruptable power supply to keep voice-over-IP gear running. But General Bandwidth's G6 Voice Gateway puts such backup capabilities in the service-provider network.

Customers could start receiving the benefits of the new technology by the second half of this year, when the gear will be ready for installation in carrier networksOnce carriers install the gateways, multiple IP phone channels delivered over digital subscriber lines (DSL) will continue to work even when the customer's electric power shuts down, just as current analog phone service can survive power failures. General Bandwidth gear supports voice over frame relay and voice over ATM as well.

General Bandwidth combines an established technology called digital added main line (DAML) with its own G6 Voice Gateway to deliver up to eight backup lines to each customer site.

The gateway accepts packetized voice traffic and translates it into a signal that traditional telephone company voice switches can understand. That lets voice-over-IP customers complete calls to people with regular phone service, and vice versa.

DAML, which requires special customer site equipment, layers on analog channels above the frequencies normally used for a voice channel on an analog phone line. Carriers use DAML today to give customers extra phone lines in areas where there is a shortage of extra copper wires to customer sites.

"No one else has that right now," says Beth Gage, an analyst with Telechoice, a telecom consulting firm in Boston. General Bandwidth has applied for patents on its idea of applying DAML to a packet-voice gateway.

When customer site power dies, the G6 in the carrier network detects that the line is down and makes a backup connection to the same local loop via an analog port rather than an ATM port that it would otherwise use. The shift happens within two seconds and ongoing calls are maintained. Callers hear a click and the line seems dead while the transition takes place, says Brendon Mills, CEO of General Bandwidth.

In addition to the lifeline phone feature, General Bandwidth is unique in designing its gear to work with any broadband access technology - DSL, cable modem or broadband wireless, says Michael Howard, an analyst with Infonetics Research in San Jose.

General Bandwidth is making alliances with vendors of customer site equipment in these broadband areas to ensure interoperability, Mills says.

General Bandwidth:

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