Over the next few years, much of the $300 billion per year telecommunications industry will migrate and convert its equipment and carrier services to support packetized VoIP services on the WAN. It will not be long before traditional telephony systems providers are outdated.
As older providers lose customer base and revenue, they will streamline operations and eventually close their doors. The providers that stay in business will need to increase prices and therefore become noncompetitive. VoIP technology has become the strongest influence in the telecommunications provider marketplace. As VoIP emerges worldwide as the number one replacement for traditional circuit-switched telephony infrastructure, manufacturers of telecommunications gear will convert their product lines to meet customer demands for VoIP-enabled systems. The same holds true for network services providers. They will convert their core service offerings to give priority to VoIP-related services. In fact, this is already occurring with most major carriers. The demand for circuit-switched equipment and network services will decline. As a result, the cost to suppliers who stay in the circuit-switched niche will go up. These costs will need to be passed on to the customers. The leading VoIP and carrier services companies have made a commitment to developing secure and reliable IP telephony systems, communications software applications, life-cycle services, and carrier provider services. For a list of the leading manufacturers in the VoIP field, . In light of newer VoIP products and services, customers will want to convert to VoIP so that they have adequate support available from outside companies. Many companies will also want to develop the VoIP skills of their in house personnel. In this way, companies can insure their long-term growth by reducing costs and increasing revenue. VoIP can save companies lots of money in operating expenses, but if you have a multilocation company, converting to VoIP does require planning and VoIP skills.
Feature-Rich, Cost-Effective Alternatives
Most traditional telephony calling features have made their mark on the industry. Features such as voice mail, call transfer, call forwarding, and three way calling have become familiar to all of us. The costs of these features are either rolled into the cost of your company’s private telephony system, or you pay for them à la carte.
All traditional telephony features as well as many new features and communications applications are available in the brave new world of IP telephony. The number of calling features is overwhelming. And they all come with no additional cost because they are IP-based and are carried over the computer network.
Simple features such as being able to look at your telephony station and see a visual indicator that tells you whether someone in your calling group is present but on the telephone at the moment can help increase employee productivity. (Think how many times you wasted time calling people, only to get a busy signal or their voice mail, not knowing whether they were at their desk or not.) The presence feature is just one of many features available with VoIP. Or how about the ability to run a soft phone on your computer and do telephony using a point-and-click process with a headset? Such a capability would never be contemplated in traditional telephony because that world cant support computer-related applications in a seamless manner. Many other calling features are available in VoIP, all just as compelling to companies considering a change.
Existing Investment Protection
If your company has a traditional telephone system (such as a PBX or KTS) in place, you can protect your investment by adapting the system in the new VoIP network. The PBX system probably includes many digital telephone stations. These telephones can also be reused in the new VoIP environment. Your company can migrate to VoIP while protecting your existing telephony hardware investments.
A forklift upgrade is when you get rid of everything from the older system and therefore lose your previous investment. The other approach is to use some or all of your existing equipment. With the right VoIP partner, you can avoid forklift upgrades to VoIP.
Seamless Maintenance and Management
The full benefits of VoIP are realized in a converged network one in which data and voice packets travel over the same infrastructure. Such a foundation eradicates redundant information systems, so the major tasks of installing and managing VoIP become more cohesive. Managers have more effective and direct applications to support their many challenges. They can manage not only computer data applications, but also IP-based telephony and videoconferencing systems. Unified database applications running over the network provide real-time, seamless access to all information needed to maintain the VoIP network.
Moves, adds, and changes that would require complex and costly resources in a traditional telephony network do not require the manager to do anything in a VoIP network. Instead, the network automatically adjusts itself to accommodate a user new location. Usage, accounting, and other metrics data are available to the manager through any computer device attached to the network. With VoIP, managing and maintaining the network becomes cost-effective and seamless. Staff do not get caught up in problems and stay focused on business deliverables.
Flexibility and Portability
IP telephony has spawned many applications that increase both the flexibility and portability of communications. For instance, a soft phone provides mobile employees with easy access to real-time communications and the same calling features enjoyed by stationary employees. Users have never had more telephone options available for mobility. Wireless extension to cellular enables a follow-me feature so that employees can have calls ring at both their office and their cellular telephones.
In a VoIP network, employees can travel to any of the company’s locations, plug in their IP-enabled laptop, begin work, and make and receive telephone calls. Employees have, at their distant temporary location, all the rich features normally available to them at their home office location. The network automatically identifies the user and applies that user’s profile information. Employees can even direct their calls to any digital desktop telephone at the temporary location. (The telephone does not even have to be IP-enabled.) Managers no longer have to make costly and time-consuming accommodations for computer data and telephony connections for a coworker visiting their location.
Enhanced Network Management
VoIP provides a foundation for comprehensive network management. As a result, the ability for you to manage every bit and byte that runs over your LAN and WAN has never been more enabled. Likewise, you have at your disposal tools that find and fix network issues so quickly that managers may rarely know that anything has happened. These types of tools can support local and remote network monitoring. In dedicated networks, near-perfect quality is provided. Thats not to say that problems never occur, but with a VoIP network, your ability to detect symptoms and make changes to your setup in advance of any problems is greatly enhanced.
Better Utilization of Personnel
VoIP enables the realization of a converged network data and telephony traveling over the same network. Gone are the days when you needed two different skill sets to maintain your networks (one for telephony and one for data). Although there are some skills unique to VoIP that traditional network engineers dont have, the underlying skills related to Ethernet networks and IP protocols are the same. This allows your company to maximize the training of your people and, in many cases, reduce the number of personnel you need in-house to support the network.
Many of the Web applications that previously ran exclusively over the Internet will now run over your private VoIP-based communications network. Your users can have their favorite Web page displayed on their VoIP telephone, or they can post special Web links on their telephone-based Web page. Many Web-based applications are candidates for running on your VoIP telephones. Users can also add a video telephony solution, powered by IP video application software that enables a desktop PC or laptop to emulate an IP office phone. The quality of the video and audio that runs on the company’s network, versus the Internet, is free from latency and jitter.
Better Bandwidth Utilization
Many people wrongly assume that when you add VoIP to an enterprise computer network, there wont be enough bandwidth available to support the change. The fact is that dedicated network transports supporting computer data or traditional telephony systems are about 30 percent utilized. Even though running both data and voice packets over the same network increases overall traffic, you must look at how the IP-based traffic operates. On the LAN side, fault isolation provided by switching equipment maintains a steady mode of operation. If any chokepoints are identified, they can be remedied almost immediately by changing connection points or doing what the gurus call load balancing. But your IP-based management system will tell you this before it even becomes a problem.
than one site on the WAN side that may have users connecting to your site. In addition, the cost and overall bandwidth capacity of WAN transports are higher and recur monthly when compared to the LAN side. (Chapter 7 provides more detail on transport lines and services to dynamically allocate bandwidth.) For example, a T1 line has 24 channels. If you run traditional circuit-switched calls over the T1, you can maintain 24 simultaneous calls. The beauty of VoIP is that it is packetized, so the same 24 calls could run through just a fraction of the T1 overall capacity. As a result, you gain multiple times the bandwidth equivalent with VoIP when compared to circuit-switched telephony.
The cost reduction argument is compelling from a couple of perspectives. The argument is never more persuasive, however, than it is for companies that have a substantial volume of toll calls charged by the minute. VoIP can reduce local charges; that’s a good thing. But VoIP also reduces or eliminates most other classes of toll charges and greatly reduces your regulatory fees. That is a great thing.
Depending on the number of locations your company has and how many toll boundaries your current calling plan covers, you can save big bucks. This savings is derived primarily from putting all your locations on VoIP and bypassing most if not all of your toll charges. If your organization has significant international calling, the same benefit accrues, except that your company can save even more on toll and regulatory costs.