Many of my friends rant about the simplicity and elegance of the Apple Macintosh computer. But, as with many technologies, the simpler the user's experience is, the more complex the underlying infrastructure must be. This is true of the telephone network.

Currently more than 4,000 telephony service providers—inter-exchange carriers (IXCs), Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs), and so on—exist in the United States alone. Global deregulation of telephone markets is forcing government-owned incumbent telephone carriers to begin competing with new, often innovative carriers. These new carriers frequently use new infrastructures so that they can compete at a lower price point than the incumbent carriers. They also are using these new infrastructures to deploy new applications to their customers faster than they can on legacy equipment.

Many of these new carriers use Voice over IP (VoIP) to lower their cost of operations and give them the flexibility they need to enter the global marketplace.

A key part of this flexibility is the ubiquity of the Internet Protocol (IP). Because of the prevalence of the Internet, and because IP is the de facto protocol connecting almost all devices, application developers can use IP to write an application only once for use in many different network types. This makes VoIP a powerful service platform for next-generation applications.

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