Wednesday, May 17, 2006

IP Telephone Equals Business Productivity

IP telephony (internet protocol-based phones) had a bumpy beginning with problems of voice quality plaguing its existence in the first five to six years. But about two to three years ago, networking and telecommunication companies started re-focusing on IP telephony and it turns out that IP phones are now making serious inroads into business telephony the world over. Prabhakar Deshpande caught up with Lawrence Byrd, Director, IP Telephony and Mobility, Avaya, and talks about the growing trend.

How is IP telephony evolving?

More than 50% of our global shipments of telecommunication equipment for 2005 have been IP-based. In India, we expect this shift to likely happen in 2006. Admittedly, the installed base of business telephony - over 450 million lines -- is still likely to be based on traditional telephony.

Why should one shift to IP telephony?
We allow customers to evolve at their own pace. This is not an all-or-nothing approach. The reason IP telephony is being advocated is that it allows for new applications and contributes to productivity. There are new applications in the area of mobility, conferencing and unified access that would be very difficult to implement using traditional telephony at reasonable costs.

How would this shift to IP telephony impact vendors?
The movement to IP-based phones would certainly impact vendors. Avaya had to invest significantly for a major technology shift. So did other vendors. Carriers such as AT&T, hitherto working in traditional telecom, cannot be complacent and would have to provide alternative service offerings. Many smaller PBX companies are in fact, disappearing.

Why did this movement to IP happen?
The movement to IP telephony started happening in the late 90s. Companies found that they had data fibres for data networks and leased lines for traditional voice network. The vendor push in this area was that there was no need to separate the two whereby costs could also actually be reduced. There was a similar customer push as IP Telephony was cheaper and allowed richer set of applications.

What are the rich sets of applications?
Many applications are in the area of video conferencing, web conferencing and unified messaging. One advantage is in the area of providing access to many more people while another advantage is being able to use a cellphone as an extension to IP. Video over IP is yet another application and it is also possible to have an office phone at home with a virtual private network.


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