VoIP and CTP Certification: Converging on a Solution

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Revolutionary advancements in telephone technology are causing corresponding changes in the telephony and data network industries. Traditionally, voice was transferred over circuit-based networks. These extremely advanced systems consist of wired and wireless networks. With the rise of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), both voice and video are increasingly carried on packet-based networks—the same ones that carry e-mail messages—rather than on traditional telephone networks.

This integration or convergence of circuit-based and packet-based technologies requires specialized skills and knowledge. Today’s telecommunications workers cannot afford to be only telephony or data network experts. They must become convergence technology professionals focusing on total voice, video and data solutions across different networks, rather than just one network type. These professionals will be the front line in addressing the needs and challenges of the convergence industry.

What Are the Challenges?
The primary challenge facing convergence is that although all of the major protocols are in place, several practices and technologies still need to be resolved:

 

 

  • Integration with common networking practices: Network address translation (NAT) allows a router or firewall to hide the internal topology of the network and conserve IP addresses. The industry must agree on a common standard allowing VoIP-related protocols to easily traverse NAT-enabled firewalls and routers.
  • Emergency services: VoIP technologies have not caught up with the 911 emergency service in the United States. Homes and businesses that rely on VoIP may not be able to contact 911 easily.
  • Security controls: Government agencies with the proper warrants can create network wiretaps. How will calls be properly monitored across packet-based networks?
  • Internetwork support: VoIP providers have yet to agree on how to share their resources so that provider networks can work and play well together.
  • Availability: Residential consumers in some larger markets, such as the greater New York City or Los Angeles areas, can choose VoIP for their homes. But small and medium-sized markets have no choice.

 

While these factors are getting worked out, a secondary challenge needs to be addressed. The rate at which convergence technology is evolving has created a shortage of trained, certified professionals who understand the issues facing convergence and can implement workable solutions.

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) have published standards that address the industry’s needs, but simply publishing such standards is not enough. Workers need to demonstrate their skills in an efficient way, so TIA has taken the initiative to create a vendor-neutral certification called Convergence Technologies Professional (CTP). This certification verifies a person’s knowledge in three areas vital to modern voice and video communication:

 

 

  • Traditional networking involving TCP/IP, security and common network services.
  • Traditional telephony, such as planning and troubleshooting circuit-based telephone networks as well as high-speed network infrastructures.
  • VoIP’s essential protocols, codecs and procedures that ensure voice and video are properly processed.

 

As with the networking standards it has created, TIA worked closely with leading companies, including Avaya, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Toshiba, to create the CTP certification. TIA also felt it was important to work with an organization that knew how to manage certifications, so it enlisted Prosoft Learning Corp., purveyors of the CIW series of professional certifications.

Why CTP?
CTP certification provides a standard by which to validate an individual’s proficiencies in convergence technologies. To be effective, today’s convergence technology workers require thorough skills and knowledge in networking, telephony and VoIP. Validation of these skills enables career advancement and job security.

In addition, CTP certification requires technicians to choose the right tool for a given job, rather than using only a single vendor’s solution. Sometimes, the right tool is a well-known vendor product. As open-source solutions are becoming increasingly important, however, vendors must be prepared for their products to be compared to those of their competitors. In fact, savvy vendors support CTP to enable technicians to better understand how to create a solution for the customer, regardless of specific vendor products.

Further, the CTP certification measures industry-wide skills and job-role knowledge. This prepares candidates for a variety of careers in technical or sales roles. So, whereas the telephony industry tends to be product-oriented and thus focused on vendor-specific product features, CTP workers understand product commonalities and ways that technologies work together.

Needing the Right Talent
Convergence technology workers must master not only traditional networking and server maintenance, but also traditional telephony maintenance, VoIP, video and troubleshooting. So how do you find an experienced convergence worker?

One answer is multiple certifications, which can be costly and time-consuming. For those seeking solid proof of their convergence knowledge in a single certification, CTP is a sound choice. Developed by subject-matter experts and psychometrically reviewed, CTP is a respected, high-stakes certification accepted or endorsed by companies such as Avaya, Cisco and Toshiba.

CTP is designed for professionals with experience in data networking, telephony networking and convergence implementation. Typically, an individual has strength in one area and takes instruction in the others. The exam consists of 65 multiple-choice questions, 49 of which must be answered correctly to pass.

Prosoft Learning Corp. and ComputerPREP provide official CTP course materials so that qualified candidates can prepare for the exam efficiently. This courseware was developed with input from subject-matter experts, including those from companies such as Avaya and from TIA itself. Candidates can take the exam at Prometric or Pearson VUE testing centers. Alternatively, they can take the exam in a CTP Certified Testing Center (CTC) environment. Created by Prosoft Learning Corp., the CTC is a monitored, secure proctor network that uses Web-based delivery of the same CTP exams available through traditional Prometric and VUE centers. As a result, corporations and academic institutions can deliver the exam right in the classroom.

Maturation of the Industry
The traditional telephone company employee wore a hard hat, drove around in a truck with a flashing light and worked only on your home or business telephone. Much like the proverbial housekeeper who says, “I don’t do windows,” the traditional telephony worker didn’t do data. Even five years ago, the traditional telephony worker didn’t do Windows, Linux or anything that was carried across a packet-based network. Now, anyone who wants to work with voice and video needs to know about traditional telephony, as well as data concepts such as TCP/IP, routing and ways to convert data to voice and back. Convergence knowledge is now essential to job security.

The advent of certifications such as CTP demonstrates the continuing maturation of the industry. CTP’s very existence shows that the industry is aware of its own potential and the challenges it faces. Customers are not content with only one technology or vendor. The industry has responded with multiple vendors and robust technologies. And now, the certification industry has found a way to train, test and certify convergence workers who understand t

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