For years I've been advocating for an open voice peering exchange in Canada, and as I mentioned in my previous blog post about COVID-19's impact on Canadian telecommunications networks there has never been a better time to get this project ready for prime time. For those who don't know what a voice peering exchange is, it serves two related purposes. It is a way for telecommunications providers to send voice calls to each other directly over the internet using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), removing the phone system's surprisingly persistent dependence on legacy copper based facilities. And it is a way to radically deepen the number of direct interconnections between voice providers, making the system more robust, more resilient, and less prone to bottlenecks. In our current climate of overloaded networks, more modern and more diverse interconnection would alleviate the strain legacy networks are currently experiencing passing calls between each other by offering a more scalable and efficient paths for calls to traverse.
So after years of simply discussing the idea in abstract and not actually building anything, the core VoicePeering.ca team quickly got together this week and took the project from idea to minimally viable product (MVP) in record time. We have a Session Border Controller (SBC) for the exchange, an ENUM server to provide routing lookups, and a very basic API to manage adding and removing routing entries - all hosted in Canada and designed securely. As of today there are two peers connected to the exchange, successfully passing test calls between each other. I'm very proud of the team for reaching this milestone so quickly and for getting us to this critical first milestone.
This, of course, is only the beginning. As anyone who's worked on a startup knows, a MVP is not something that is ready for mass consumption. It's proof the ideas, approaches, and technologies work but it is far from a finished project. It is, however, concrete movement forward to take VoicePeering from being an idea to reality. It is also an invitation to next steps.
What we need to move forward
Many people have reached out to me this week asking how they can help make this project a reality. After giving it some thought, I've identified three key areas where the project needs help:
The basic fact is the peering exchange needs members - without which, no one is going to join. We face the classic problem any new exchange of traffic does. Until there is a critical mass of reachable numbers no one will see the value in participating. The more early adopters we can convince to participate the better chance we have of reaching critical mass, so if you work with or know people who make decisions at any form of telecommunications provider that provides voice services in Canada please alert them to this project and have them reach out.
The project needs people to assist in building out a web portal for members to setup endpoints, manage numbering resources, view logs, etc. If this project is going to take off, we need the experience to be as painless as possible for new members to get onboard and start passing traffic. If you're a passionate web developer looking for an interesting project to pad your resume (or just pass the time while we're all stuck at home) please reach out as we could really use your help.
We also could use the help of knowledgeable voice over IP engineers who want to assist with setting up SBC policies, call routing policies, etc. If you're bored at your day job and looking for some after-hours fun hours please reach out.
While not a fun or exciting topic for most people to discuss, if the project is going to succeed it needs to be setup properly as a Not for Profit with a strong governance model. If you have any experience setting up new NFP organizations please reach out as we really need your help to legitimize VoicePeering as an organization.
This project will be a major step forward in adding additional resiliency to Canadian voice networks and something that has the potential to be a game changer for how carriers exchange traffic. Now is the time for the Canadian voice industry to make this a reality.