June 19, 2005

Jeff Pulver: We want to recognize VocalTec and the many other Israeli companies that are responsible for helping to make VoIP happen over those 10 years.The next time you save a bundle of money by talking to someone overseas via the internet using a service like Skype, you can thank Israel for pioneering the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology that’s behind it.

That’s what American VoIP industry guru Jeff Pulver did last week when he hosted The Israel VoIP Summit – a two day gathering in Tel Aviv that attracted some 125 VoIP pros from Israel, the US, France, Russia and Canada from the telecom development community, including developers, equipment manufacturers, service providers and regulators.

VoIP allows you to make and receive phone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line. This enables consumers to use their conventional phone to call anywhere in the world at anytime for less money.

According to published statistics, in 2005, 5% of US households will use VoIP as a primary phone service By 2008, 20% of all households or 43% of broadband households will use VoIP

Internet users, in Israel and around the world, use IM technology like Skype, a popular VoIP provider that claims more than 121 million downloads from its website, yet they have no idea about its roots, said Pulver.

Though he has not been in the country for seven years it was very important to Pulver to come back to say thank you to Israel for pioneering this groundbreaking technology which has become commonplace throughout the world.

“I was a product of their success,” the former amateur radio operator and Wall Street trader told ISRAEL21c. Named as one of Business Week’s 2003 ‘Gurus of Technology,’ Pulver heads PulverMedia, which publishes The Pulver Report and VON magazine and produces Voice on the Net (VON) conferences that are an industry standard. He also founded numerous IP communications companies and has testified before the FCC and US Congress.

According to Pulver, all of this success was contingent upon two pivotal advances – both made in Israel. First, was the commercialization of the IPhone. This device allowed its users to speak to each other over the internet and was invented and introduced to the market by the Israeli company VocalTec ten years ago. The other innovation developed around the same time – was a similar product produced by an IBM-Israel team in Haifa, which according to Pulver, demonstrated the significance of this then-novel technology.

With 2005 marking the tenth anniversary of these developments, Pulver conceived the idea to hold a gathering in honor of this anniversary for all the technological pioneers – in the place where it all happened.

“February 15th marked the 10 year anniversary of VocalTec Communications’ introduction of the IPhone and the commercial starting point of the IP communications revolution, and we want to recognize VocalTec and the many other Israeli companies that are responsible for helping to make VoIP happen over those 10 years,” said Pulver.

Earlier this month, Pulver put his money where his mouth is by committing to purchasing an equity stake in VocalTec.

“I have known VocalTec as a technology leader and continuous innovator for the past 10 years,” said Pulver. “I’m excited about the opportunity to participate directly in the company’s future.”

Since its world-first development ten years ago, VocalTec has evolved into a leading telecom equipment provider offering next generation network (NGN) VoIP carrier class call control and hosted telephony platforms. Their customer base spans more than 100 countries and includes Deutsche Telekom, Intelcom San Marino (subsidiary of Telecom Italia Sparkle), RomTelecom and Hanoi Telecom. The company’s flagship Essentra Softswitch Platform offers carriers a rich set of residential and enterprise telephony services, supporting both legacy and advanced IP based multimedia devices.

“The VoIP industry first began in Israel and has truly revolutionized the entire telecommunications space,” said VocalTec CEO Dr. Elon Ganor.

According to Pulver, it was a natural decision to hold the conference in Israel, pointing out that Hebrew was the unofficial language at the early VON conferences held around the world.

“You would have heard Hebrew all around, you’d here it in the hallways, in the boardrooms and the men’s room,” he said, adding that the language was so prevalent that he even picked up a bit of it from being around Israelis for the past ten years.

There is a direct Israeli influence on IP communications, Pulver said, citing the creation of the instant messaging (IM) program ICQ in Israel. “All this technology comes out of Israel -but I don’t think people have realized this,” he adds.

According to Pulver, it’s not surprising that the roots of VoIP are in Israel.

“Broadband penetration in Israel is second only to Korea, so this is it. You’re living in it,” Pulver said, adding that, “if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen here first.”

He excitedly points out that for the past five or six years major US phone companies have begun using VoIP for internal communications. However, the Israel Defense Force has been using this technology for similar purpose since the late 1980s.

Senior Director of product marketing for Time Warner cable Michael Jablon agrees with Pulver’s assessment of the Israeli VoIP scene. “The language of technology here is so evolved that things happen faster,” he said.

Jablon, who has worked for VocalTec and IBM, was sent to the conference by Time Warner because, “as a company that is at the cutting edge, it’s important to have its finger on the pulse.”

Hoping to build upon the momentum and success of the Israel VoIP Summit, Pulver plans to further promote Israel’s role in VoIP development and is planning a VON Israel conference for some time this coming year.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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