Traditional Telco vs. VoIP Arms Race Beginning?

New Scientist is reporting today that German company Infineon has recently filed for two patents (1,2) for technology that deliberately interferes with VoIP technology.

The application doesn’t expand on why it would be used. But it could conceivably come in handy for any company that operates both phone and internet services and would like to protect their phone business from the growing popularity of VoIP.

The first of the techniques monitors network traffic to identify voice packets, then injects additional “pseudo-packets” into the communications stream. These packets appear to be part of the media stream but in reality contain nothing useful. The device then creates an artificial bottleneck for packets that it earlier labeled as voice, essentially rate-limiting the mix of real voice packets and “pseudo-packets”, while allowing normal data packets to traverse the device unhindered. The real kicker with this method is that then, the “pseudo-packets” can be filtered back out before the voice traffic exits the device, leaving little indication to external troubleshooters as to what is actually causing the media degredation.

The second of the techniques covers methods of degrading speech sent via a WiFi hot spot.

Repeatedly, Skype has claimed that their protocol and service needs to be stealthy because large service providers who provide both Internet services and traditional telephony services see the Skype service as a threat to their telephony business and regularly try to block the Skype traffic. Also recently, multiple other companies have developed and provided VoIP filtering technologies to Chinese service providers.

If these service providers begin to employ techniques like the ones described above against not just Skype traffic but all VoIP traffic, stealthy protocols like Skype’s may have an advantage over standards-based or community developed protocols, and may begin to foster an arms race between proprietary VoIP products and services and the traditional Telcos.