Voice could hop to Ribbit's rhythm

Last week, we talked about one possible future direction for telcos' voice endeavors. But, outsourcing voice or wireline operations doesn't necessarily mean that telcos should completely remove themselves from ongoing voice developments. Voice, instead of being a dedicated function of time division multiplexing networks, is now becoming another software-based data application on IP networks. What it's used for and how it integrates with other applications also is changing.

It's still a consumer application and a business application, but it's just one element of a platform approach to addressing the variable needs of different market venues, social networking being one example.

Telcos are starting to realize this. BT earlier this year acquired Ribbit, a Web voice platform developer that also had taken to advertising itself as "Silicon Valley's first telephone company." You can laugh at that bit of promotional hype, but today, Ribbit officially announced a VoIP developer platform, which the company says will make it much easier for applications developers--including telcos and other carriers, by the way--to develop voice applications finely-tuned for particular websites or service platforms aimed at particular audiences.

BT's Ribbit acquisition initially seemed both visionary and extremely risky, as BT already had taken strong steps into a Web 2.0/Telco 2.0 universe, but has suffered from larger corporate financial shortcomings along the way. Still, a few months ago, not long after the Ribbit deal was done, BT seemed intent on further following the new evolution in voice applications. Michael Boustridge, president of BT Americas, told FierceTelecom in September, "Voice is not dead, and we should not be surprised it will play a very important role in the notion of integrated, seamless services. What we saw in Ribbit was a tested technology and a multi-protocol software platform that would allows us to transform voice and leverage the opening of our network. Software-based services are becoming very important, and if you do not have an open network, you will not be able to flex your network in the direction it needs to go in the future."