Major issues in moving to VoIP

The final touches are being put on the Network World Voice over IP seminar that will hit six major U.S. cities later this month and in April. In doing so, the key issues the seminar should discuss have been focused on. They boil down to three major areas: quality of service (QoS), the business case and enhanced applications.

QoS deals with the network infrastructure from the LAN to the WAN. Voice over IP undeniably works quite well if you provide more than ample bandwidth for the IP traffic across dedicated, leased lines. This, however, defeats the whole purpose of doing voice over IP in the first place. Voice over IP only makes economic sense when it is combined with data services across a converged network. So the problem is how to guarantee, or at least reasonably assure, that delay-sensitive voice traffic takes priority over largely delay-insensitive data traffic.

The business case for voice over IP is proving to be fascinating, indirect and, in some cases, elusive. Here’s the first problem. Toll bypass to save on long-distance calls is not the major cost savings. You can go to your local discount store and buy a prepaid calling card for domestic voice service in the United States for 3.4 cents per minute, with similarly inexpensive international rates. Or just get all your friends to sign up for AT&T Corp. service and call them for a flat rate of US$20 per month. This is close enough to “free” that the arguments to go to voice over IP for toll bypass become a wash.

Instead, the major benefits will come from other areas, such as simplified moves, adds and changes, and potential cost savings due to reduced staffing needs. A recent case study by Cisco Systems Inc. cited an example in which six people rather than eight supported the voice-over-IP infrastructure.

The major business impact must come from the third area – enhanced applications that go beyond the traditional call centre. These applications start with unified messaging – removing the media-dependent characteristics of voice mail, e-mail and instant messaging. We’ll also see the call centre evolve into the next-generation contact center that merges the Web with call centres. We’ll also look for additional features that enhance collaboration and eventually minimize time-space limitations.

It’s these three issues – QoS management, the business case and next-generation applications – that will define how quickly we go down the road to voice over IP. This free seminar can help you determine whether you’re ready to start the journey. To register, go to, DocFinder: 8425.

Taylor is president of Distributed Networking Associates Inc. and editor/publisher of He can be reached at [email protected].

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