VoIP: Killer Technology or Yet Another Victim of Hype?
Voice over IP (VoIP) technology enables telephone calls to be transmitted over IP data networks or the Internet instead of over public switched networks, giving it the potential to revolutionize our use of telecom and IT infrastructures. Beth Cohen addresses the pros and cons of VoIP technology and discusses whether or not you should be seriously considering the technology as part of your IT infrastructure mix.
A few years ago, I had lunch with a Bob Olshansky, a visionary at GTE Labs who was regaling me with the benefits of moving all voice traffic over to IP data lines. His vision was of a great convergence of technologies; everything was going to be part of the great internet revolution -- data, fax, voice, or whatever. Unified messaging was the next "killer technology" in the heady days of the Internet bubble. Now, in the post telecom meltdown and dotcom era, what has happened to the VoIP revolution?
"We installed VoIP at our new facility in Reston, VA. It works perfectly, and it cost the same as it would if we had installed a traditional POTS switch. I would definitely recommend it if you are building a new facility because I see it as an investment in the technological future, but the ROI is less certain in a situation with existing infrastructure," says Stan Tyliszcak, Advanced Systems Manager, General Dynamics.
VoIP is most definitely still with us, but how it is used and who uses it have changed. It still has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of telecom and IT infrastructures, but there are some things to consider and watch for. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of VoIP technology for your network and address some valid questions you might be asking about the technology. Questions like how will installing a VoIP system affect the infrastructure of my network and IT systems, and is this a mature technology that I can take advantage of now, or will I have to wait to realize the benefits?
Definition of VoIP
What is VoIP, and can the technology benefit my company? Quite simply, Voice over IP allows telephone calls to be transmitted over IP data networks or the Internet instead of over public switched networks. "In a VoIP network, digitized voice data is highly compressed and carried in packets over IP networks. In a public switched telephone network (PSTN), for example, a dedicated 64 Kilobits per second (Kbps) end-to-end circuit is allocated for each call.
Using the same bandwidth, a VoIP network can carry many times the number of voice calls as a switched circuit network with better voice quality," says an International Engineering Consortium VoIP tutorial. "A VoIP network carries voice traffic cheaper than a switched-circuit telephone network because IP-telephony networks make better use of available bandwidth."