While the telecom industry as whole continues to skid and
bump along, certain segments of the market continue to enjoy some measure of
success. A recent report from Allied
Business Intelligence tells us that IP PBX deployments are on the rise.
Specific findings in the study include:
Some form of IP-based systems
will represent over 50 percent of enterprise PBX seats shipped by 2003.
Revenues will exceed $12.7 billion by 2007 as more and larger
enterprises implement VoIP telephone systems.
At the recent Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO in San Diego, TMC
was proud to play host to seven of the IP PBX industrys most influential
companies, in our first-ever IP PBX Shootout, a forum designed to allow the
leading manufacturers to debate the benefits of their particular IP PBX
systems in the face of tough questions from a moderator and an extremely
The Shootout began with introductions. The panel was made up of the
following vendors representatives:
From Mitel Networks, Christian
From Shoreline Communications,
From Vertical Networks, Scott
From Avaya, Marisa Rosato;
From Citel, John Drolet (also
representing the views of 3Com);
From Cisco Systems, Hank Lambert;
From AltiGen Communications,
The debate began with a warm-up question, asking the vendors to state
what sets their product apart from the competition. The responses ranged
from specific technological differences to a focus on user experiences. One
theme that cropped up here, and that was repeated throughout the rest of the
Shootout, was the importance of a migration path from TDM-based systems
evolving into fully IP-centric solutions. Vendors all found common ground,
agreeing that technology alone was not enough of a justification to move
users of traditional PBXs and key systems into an IP-based solution.
Attention to real-world business issues, ease of use, ROI, increased
productivity, and the potential benefits of IP applications were all cited
as reasons that people would wish to consider IP PBXs.
Next, the conversation turned to features, specifically features that the
manufacturers did not currently offer, but felt were important enough to
pursue in future versions of their systems. By far the most talked about
features/applications were increased use of presence and increased
collaboration capabilities. All agreed that instant messaging held promise
as a future feature of a next-generation phone system. Beyond specific
apps/features vendors hit all the right notes and included increased
reliability, lower price points, and standardization -- most notably an
automated discovery process and more attention to power over Ethernet -- in
their laundry lists of elements on their near-term roadmap.
When pressed for their views on SIP and standards in general, most
vendors agreed that SIP was an important standard, but that todays
solutions were not yet likely to adhere to that still evolving protocol.
While SIP holds tremendous potential to help developers create new
applications in collaboration and presence, proprietary protocols are today
providing business values and ready-for-market applications. A final point
on standards was that standardization would in time drive prices down, both
for the IP PBX solutions themselves as well as for IP phones, and that, most
certainly, would be a good thing.
On the issue of wireless, everyone seemed ready to support 802.11, with
most offering solutions incorporating clients from either
Spectralink. Bluetooth, the
emerging personal-area networking standard did not elicit much of a response
from the panel. In fact the general feeling regarding Bluetooth was that the
standard needs to mature somewhat, and that customers were not demanding the
Questions from the audience drove the conversation towards security, in
fact several members of the audience seemed perturbed that the issue of
security was not as high up on the vendors checklists as they thought it
should be. The panelists did say that increased media encryption was
definitely possible, but at an increased cost. Audience members persisted
however, and some panelists were left positioning the security issue in
terms like, If someone wants to hack a system badly enough, theres nothing
that can be done to prevent it. To be fair, work is being done in
encryption and were likely to see some real movement on this issue in
future IP PBX releases.
The final question of the debate, regarding IP phone support, drew a
varied response from the panelists -- while most of the participants support
at least two IP phones (Polycoms was
the most cited), some vendors supported as many as 11 phones. This final
topic also produced the most memorable exchange of the Shootout, with
Shorelines Barry Castle arguing that a debate centering on phones was
Its about the apps. Its not about the phones. The industry has been
tied to phones for years. People are paying $650 for an IP phone today --
its insane! Its mad! Get away from it!
The audience seemed to support this view, if applause was an accurate
All in all, the first-ever IP PBX Shootout was a smashing success; so
much so that we decided to bring the event to our next Internet Telephony
Conference & EXPO in Miami, this coming February 57. For details on
the show, for conference registration, and for more information on the next
IP PBX Shootout, please contact Bruce Hirsch at 800-243-6002 x130 or visit
the Web site at www.itexpo.com.
BEST OF SHOW WINNERS ANNOUNCED!
For a list of the Best of Internet Telephony
Conference & EXPO Fall 2002 award winners from San Diego, click
To The December 2002 Table Of Contents ]