Canadians get VoIP

A new report reveals that while Canadian enterprises may have a better understanding of voice over IP (VoIP) than some of their global counterparts, actually making the switch is a different matter entirely.

The findings come out of a recent survey conducted by AT&T Corp. and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU — the business information arm of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist). It surveyed 254 executives worldwide and found 43 per cent of global respondents were either using, testing or planning to implement VoIP within the next two years, versus 39 per cent of Canadian executives surveyed.

“There is no reason Canadian companies wouldn’t implement [VoIP] as fast as the United States and Europe. [Canada] is just as interested in the benefits of VoIP,” said Richard Blacklock, director of business strategy and development for AT&T Global Services.

However, Roberta Fox, senior partner with Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont., said the disconnect may be attributed to Canadian businesses not being early adopters of advanced technologies.

“[Businesses] are reticent to change unless it is proven. They don’t want to get embarrassed, they want to make sure it works,” said Fox. She added there is not a strong compelling business case to move over to VoIP, as many companies have already spent billions of dollars upgrading their voice technologies for the Y2K crisis.

Blacklock said it is a major capital investment for a company to replace all of its previous solutions with VoIP.

Yet, the EIU survey said 88 per cent of Canadian executives cited features like unified messaging as critical and important in their decision to implement VoIP, compared to 71 per cent of global respondents.

Despite these findings, Fox said many Canadian enterprises are struggling to see VoIP’s benefits, especially in the realm of long distance, where Canada already has some of the lowest rates. Eighty-seven per cent of those surveyed said reduction of telephone charges is another reason why they may decide to move to VoIP.

“Where VoIP makes sense is on the applications that sit on the server;…the application side of VoIP will grow,” Fox said. The EIU report said by 2008, revenues for VoIP will increase by 39 per cent while those for the public switched telephone network will drop.

Fox believed there may be political barriers within organizations preventing VoIP adoption.

“There are the organizational questions that are also one of the hindrances of VoIP being held back in Canada. You got the telecom department, you got data com, and you got IT. In VoIP it is the telecom running over the data network. So who owns it? Who manages it?” she said.

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