Monday, June 13, 2011

The Days of the Telephone Number are Dwindling

Dialing a number to reach a person or business will become the exception, rather than the rule.
Today if you wanted to reach Microsoft Sales by phone you would need to dial (800) 642-7676.
But, would it not be easier to remember
I came to this realization back in 2003 when I started working with SIP based Unified Communications products from Nortel.

That Nortel product had a number configured for a user, but the phone number was not required. A call could be placed to another person if you had their SIP URI ( The number for the most part was so they could interact with the PSTN.

They had both PBX and Carrier version of their SIP product that were intended to work together to provide SIP trunking and Federation with other organizations. Some thought this vision was a bit early for the market to really understand the value, but Nortel also did not evangelize the vision. 

Fast forward a few years and now we have Unified Communications well evangelized from multiple vendors. Nortel lost the opportunity that came with being early to market with a revolutionary product idea.

Now others, like Microsoft can capitalize on those ideas and add their own. 

For years, Microsoft, has provided an efficient way to connect organizations together that use Microsoft based Unified Communications. These organizations can communicate seamlessly across the Public Internet without any VPN. This is done through the Edge Server role in Office Communications Server and now Lync Server 2010.

No PSTN involved.

No big SIP server in the sky.

No dialing of a phone number.

It is all simply done through the existing DNS system by calling a users SIP URI (
Much like an email address the SIP URI contains all the information needed to route the call to an organization ( and which user or endpoint should receive the call once we reach that organization (john).

So today, if you use a Microsoft based Unified Communications system and communicate with partner organizations or vendors usig the Edge Server role you could potentially make a call to a SIP URI like and have that reach a real person. Again...

No PSTN involved.

No big SIP server in the sky.

No dialing of a phone number.

But, what hasn't happened yet, is a way to fully Federate (IM, Presence, Voice, Video, Desktop Sharing etc.) between all the disparate UC/Communications systems.

Recently, Microsoft has made a historic acquisition of Skype. Microsoft, in one move, has the pieces to become a SIP trunking provider, but more importantly they now have the ability to provide Federation to other organizations that are not using Microsoft Unified Communications.

Consider this...

Work has been done on a Avaya solution to connect to Skype.

Although the agreement has not been renewed, work was also done with Asterisk. The agreement possibly lapsed because both Microsoft and Asterisk wanted to revisit the relationship and possibly might leverage the Skype for SIP interface instead. Just a theory of mine at this point.

With the Skype for SIP interface, what is to stop Microsoft from making it interoperate with ANY communication system? If a communications system doesn't support SIP then a PRI SIP Gateway can be used.

Skype for SIP already supports the following PBX systems:
  • 3CX
  • Avaya
  • Cisco
  • Freetalk
  • Grandstream
  • LG Ericsson
  • NEC
  • ShoreTel
  • Siemens
  • SIPfoundry
and the following PRI SIP Gateways:
  • Audiocodes
  • Grandstream
  • Net
  • VoSKY
So, now ponder these final thoughts...

Disparate systems all talking SIP can connect to Skype and no longer have to make a connection through the PSTN.

The only real need for a phone number with this scenario is to provide backwards compatibility with the PSTN.

Dialing a number to reach a person or business will become the exception, rather than the rule.

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