According to semiconductor market watcher, iSuppli Corp. of El Segundo, CA (www.isuppli.com), chips carrying voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) technology are about to demonstrate hockey-stick growth. Worldwide shipments of IP phones hit a quiet 2.5 million in 2002, but they're set to reach 20 million by 2006. Presently, 15% of cable modems have phone ports. That percentage is set to hit a hefty 66% by 2008. Does this mean you'll soon plug your phone into your HBO connection? Not necessarily. According to Texas Instruments Inc., much of the growth in VoIP is driven by traditional phone companies switching to VoIP technology for the savings. "The demand is mostly coming from the large carriers—the Baby Bells, Sprint, and AT&T," says Phil Simmelink, general manager of TI's voice-over packet business. "We're over our budget for revenues on VoIP chips." Much of the demand for VoIP chips is coming from the East. "The strongest initial growth is occurring in the Asia Pacific region," says Dharmendra Patel, senior manager of VoIP products at Agere Systems Inc. (www.agere.com) in Allentown, PA. As for consumers plugging their phones into their cable modem, that's expected to come from Asia as well. According to Steve Rago, principal analyst for networking and optical service at iSuppli, much of the VoIP chips are going into cable modems headed for the Asia Pacific region. The idea is that marketers will be able to convert consumers to cable-based phone easily if their cable modems are already equipped to handle voice.
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