Listen Up: Audio a Key to Unified Communications Success

Years ago, I was covering the start of high-definition television for a cable industry publication. I forget the particular context, but remember a testing professional telling me that the impact that audio quality has on overall television satisfaction levels is far greater than most people would guess.

I thought back to that conversation when I read this AllBusiness piece written by a unified communications end user – a fellow named TJ McCue, who owns a company called Q4Sales. McCue, a contributor to the site, joined an evaluation program for Alteva’s unified communications services.

McCue got access to Microsoft Live Meeting, Hosted Exchange, Sharepoint, OCS and a “very cool” HD-quality VoIP phone from Polycom. In light of the gear that was sent his way, what he decided to discuss first in his post is interesting:

I thought “a phone is a phone” when I received it in the mail. But I was wrong. This VoIP phone is amazing. The HD quality is rich, so rich you better not whisper to someone else in the office while talking to someone on an HD phone because they will hear you. The part I like the most is it works seamlessly with my existing Comcast connection. Of course, the folks at Alteva pre-configured the device before shipping it, so I know the install was easier because of that.

The point isn’t to laud Polycom, though it is obvious that the vendor scored well with McCue. It’s the verification of what the tester said to me all those years ago: Audio quality matters.

If that’s the case, IT departments should pay attention to what is happening in the audio side of the industry. On March 1, for instance, RHUB Communications introduced TurboMeeting V 4.3, a rev of its TurboMeeting Web conferencing platform. The InformationWeek story on the introduction says that audio sampling in the new release is doubled – from 8kHz to 16kHz – and this version offers echo cancelation, firewall traversal, automated audio device detection and auto-reconnection.

Companies are paying attention to audio. Sennheiser Communications – described by TMCnet as a “manufacturer of microphones, headsets and wireless transmission systems,” said that its wireless DW Office DECT headset has been certified as interoperable with Cisco, Polycom and Avaya. The story says that the headset can be used with a softphone or desk phone and features HD-grade audio.

There are a lot of interesting advances in unified communications. It is understandable, to some extent, that audio quality has been overlooked. But the reality is that this is a very important topic to which IT departments must pay attention.

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