With support from its Voice Advisory Group, UKERNA has recently initiated the development of a centralised voice collaboration service for JANET users. The service will allow users from within the JANET community to collaborate using voice, instant messaging, and potentially other features such as shared whiteboards, slides and desktops. This development work follows an extensive requirements analysis exercise and technology review that took place in 2005.
At the heart of the new service will be a directory that will allow subscribed users to locate other users of the service. This directory is expected to be searchable not only by name/nickname and location data, but also by extended information such as research or educational interest areas or job titles. As the service develops, it may be sensible to interconnect with other networks.
A conference bridge will also form part of the service, enabling users to hold audio conferences. The bridge will be connected to both JANET and to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), allowing conference participants to call in via both systems. It is expected that most JANET users would call in to the bridge via JANET, with the PSTN call-in facility catering for off-JANET participants.
The challenges of delivering voice across JANET are not insignificant. However, with the maturing of standards and architectures for Voice over IP networks we can now aim to build a service that is, as far as possible, vendor neutral. For example, a user of the service should be able to choose their favourite software or hardware endpoint (‘phone’) for voice with extended collaboration features made available via a web interface.
UKERNA is already also considering how PSTN breakout could be offered as part of this service in the future; however, there are a number of challenges associated with this, including telecommunications regulations and billing. The initial services, which should be available in mid-2007, are currently being procured. Further details can be found on the JANET website at http://www.ja.net/latest/itt/procurement-voice-service.html
Voice Technical Specialist