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The voice technology evolution: From analog to digital to VoIP

The evolution of voice technology has taken us far from the old days of Ma Bell analog calls, but users still expect the same high-quality call standards.

My father worked for Verizon when I was young, and visiting him at his office was always special. The Verizon building rose high above the street, taking its place in the Albany, N.Y., skyline. His office was halfway up, a floor with great views, which happened to be adjacent to the company's network operations center.

All the calls made throughout the region flowed through those rooms. In those days, voice technology was moving from analog to digital voice services. Standing among the wide equipment racks, I could hear a racket like an army of typewriters as each "click," representing an analog call, was processed. My father took me to another room in later years, a quieter space where the digital calls hummed along the racks like an efficient engine.

Today, of course, even the digital processing center is nearly obsolete, as wired calling, not to mention the phone itself, has all but disappeared from the process of making a phone call. In this edition of Network Evolution, we look at the transition of voice technology to voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and the quality it offers compared to more traditional forms of communication. ("Can You Hear Me Now? Assessing VoIP Quality") VoIP quality is still a mixed bag compared to the clarity of old landline calls, but enterprise communications engineers and end users are finding that VoIP supports their needs. And the ability to receive calls anywhere outweighs the irritation of a dropped connection.

Neither Ma Bell, nor my father for that matter, is in the Verizon building in Albany now, but that company's legacy for voice communications reliability and quality remains a high standard to meet.

Also in this issue, we look at the software-defined wide area network and how network pros are working to ensure SD-WAN security to keep data secure against internet vulnerabilities ("Safe Travels: Keeping Your SD-WAN Secure").

And finally, Cisco is offering new certification programs that reflect the company's ongoing transformation from a hardware maker to software provider. Read more in the Over the Wire column. 

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