The sound of people chatting using Skype and other free telephony services is not what you’ll want to hear if you’re a company investigating voice over IP (VoIP) technology.
It’s not that VoIP doesn’t have a place in the office — it can be a very attractive technology for businesses. Rather, it’s simply that the sound quality you’ll hear when using free VoIP services such as Skype, Jajah, Paltalk, PeerMe, Gizmo Project and Vbuzzer to make telephone calls is generally poor.
If you’ve ever made or received a call placed from a desktop computer or a handheld wireless phone using Skype and other peer-to-peer IP telephony software, then you know how bad it can be. In the words of Ovum Inc. research analyst Jan Dawson: “Skype [quality] can make for very good phone calls or dreadful calls.”
Most often it’s the latter. Granted, it all depends on the quality of the connection — but when it comes to calls made on-line, you never know exactly what that connection will be. On the Internet, streams of voice and data rarely travel along the same path twice.
As a result, Internet calls can warble, echo, reverberate, crackle, fade and sometimes simply drop entirely. With Skype and other Internet phone software, you get what you pay for.
Free service is getting a lot of people interested in VoIP, but it may not be doing this fledgling industry much of a favour. A lot of people are getting their first experience with VoIP technology through Skype and other similar Internet-based services, an experience which can be underwhelming.
In reality, not all VoIP sounds like Skype.
In fact, communication services providers like Bell and Telus, and network equipment makers such as Cisco and Nortel, must be beside themselves at the moment. They’ve spent a whole lot of time, effort and money trying to convince the masses that VoIP can be a business-grade service.
Despite their efforts, many businesses are still reluctant to invest in VoIP technology because of perceptions that it’s an inferior voice communication alternative.
Even those who are using VoIP in their businesses are moving cautiously. About 25 per cent of the survey’s respondents say they have introduced VoIP systems at their companies, but more than half of those say less than 10 per cent of their organization’s telephones are now VoIP-enabled. In other words, they’ve taken the plunge, but are hardly deep into the technology.
Another problem with the adoption of VoIP in businesses is the thing most vendors don’t talk about. There’s a lot of work that’s often necessary to prepare existing data communication infrastructures to support voice in the first place. Some companies that have made the move to VoIP suddenly realize it’s necessary to reconfigure and retrofit their data communication networks in order to use it.
So VoIP has more than enough image problems as it is, and a service like Skype can perpetuate the opinion that it’s a poor-quality solution. That’s a pity, because there are compelling reasons for businesses to dabble a bit.