Talk Is Cheap - Page 2

 By Eileen Calabro
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The Bad
In spite of the potential, there are reasons businesses have been slow to adopt VoIP, first and foremost being quality of service. VoIP often uses the public network (much of it using IPv4, as opposed to the preferred IPv6), making it difficult to guarantee service and sound quality. These issues can be addressed by building private networks, using an Internet telephony service provider (ITSP), or blending of IP with other protocols, such as ATM or frame relay. Of course, these are expensive solutions that tend to make the cost-savings of VoIP less dramatic.

The lower cost of VoIP can also be hard to realize in the short-term when you figure in the price of handsets, which are still pricier than traditional models and are not often interoperable with servers and handsets from other vendors. Efforts are underway within the industry to ensure future interoperability, but using the handsets has also been problematic, as users are often required to dial 25 numbers or more to place a call or use call features.

To avoid problems, analyze your long-distance call loads for several months before committing to a VoIP installation; use a vendor that can fully address sound quality and bandwidth usage issues; and be sure your PBX, VoIP gateway, and handsets are all interoperable at every site.

The Future
VoIP holds great potential for businesses both large and small. Early issues with sound quality, upgrades from PBX systems, and interoperability are being addressed and growth is expected to continue. Doug Fink believes that now that call centers have adopted the technology, quality of service has become more critical, and even traditional carriers like AT&T, WorldCom, and Sprint are building up their IP networks, it's not a matter of if your company will adopt VoIP, but when. "Not every company may want to use IP today, but between the cost and new applications, everyone will find the need in the future," says Fink.

As the technology matures, expect to find a demand for its flexibility, long-term lower cost, and ease of management, and expect to see useful, exciting applications arise out of the meeting of voice and data.

This article was originally published on Jan 11, 2002
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