IPP is mentioned at the end of this article.
Internet-Based Fax Solutions Will Soon Gain a
Matt Kramer, PC Week Labs
February 24, 1997
Dozens of proprietary fax solutions may have a standard for
messaging-based Internet faxing to adhere to by midyear if work
continues to progress as planned.
Formed by fax hardware and software vendors and now part of the
Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Fax working
group has divided Internet faxing into two prospective
standards--messaging-based and real-time.
Messaging-based Internet fax is first on the drawing board, and the
group expects to publish a draft by June. As a simple
approach to implement, messaging-based faxes use E-mail as the
delivery mechanism for faxes. A fax document will be
encapsulated as part of a MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)
attachment to an E-mail message.
The Internet Fax working group has already proposed a version of the
standard TIFF (Tag Image File Format) protocol used
in conventional fax machines for use over the Internet. A fax device
implementing this version of TIFF would take a fax
message, encapsulate it into an E-mail message and send it to the
recipient over E-mail. A multifunction fax machine, printer or
copier device could be used. At least one multifunction device vendor,
Panasonic, has demonstrated a prototype that could
send E-mail messages.
Cost reduction is a major impetus for the Internet fax effort. Internet fax
transmission can save companies money by avoiding
the telephone charges incurred by conventional faxing. But the trade-off
is less timely delivery, since the E-mail system might
take time to deliver the fax whereas conventional faxing offers immediate
In addition, these savings might not be so substantial for some
businesses. A few proprietary Internet fax system providers
claim that they can bring faxing costs down to 15 cents per minute for
any location. While this may be attractive to those with
international locations, corporations can probably negotiate large
discounts with their long-distance provider for domestic U.S.
calls. Companies may also have to upgrade their equipment or purchase
new devices in order to use the new technology.
While the working group is making good progress, it still has a number of
issues to confront before a messaging-based fax
standard is complete. There has been some talk of making the standard
friendlier to IMAP (Internet Message Access
Protocol) 4 by using multipart MIME attachments and making each fax
page a separate segment. The benefit would be that an
IMAP client could download part of a fax document, perhaps just looking
at the cover page or the first page, rather than
downloading the entire document.
The working group also must contend with another issue--how to
support addressing E-mail messages. Will additional
hardware, such as keyboards, have to be added to existing fax
machines, or will the fax machine user have to enter a series of
numbers on the telephone keypad that are then translated into an
address that E-mail systems can handle?
Once the messaging-based standard is complete, the group will turn its
attention to real-time delivery, which it refers to as
session-based faxing. This technology is thought to be much more
difficult to implement because session-based faxes have
strict timing requirements.
Some observers say that if other time-sensitive traffic such as voice and
video can be sent over the Net, then fax data also can
be accommodated. But while voice and video might tolerate some data
loss due to delays in the network, fax documents need
to be transmitted with perfect reliability.
Several proposals are on the table that address the technical challenge
of sending fax traffic over the packet-oriented Internet.
Brooktrout Technologies, for example, has discussed the possibility of
tunneling fax traffic on top of IP packets and others
have submitted alternative approaches. Dialogic Corp.'s GammaLink
division also has prepared an Internet Fax developer's kit
and its own proposal for dynamic real-time fax delivery.
Another challenge the Internet Fax working group faces is dealing with
other Internet standards efforts that might solve the
same problems as Internet-based fax. Another IETF group is working on
an Internet Printing Protocol, which would permit the
sending of jobs to remote printers over the Internet. Printing a document
on a remote printer might take the place of sending a
Of course, it's also possible that Internet-based faxing, printing and other
information distribution alternatives will co-exist. For
example, printing over the Internet might be reserved for intracompany
connections, and conventional fax or Internet-based fax
systems could be used for external communications.