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August 1999

IP Telephony In The Enterprise


Service providers were first to deploy Internet telephony products. The benefits were clear: By using the untaxed Internet or private intranets, service providers could bypass excessive telephone taxes, and offer very competitive long-distance services — particularly for international calls. Now the long-anticipated enterprise deployment of IP telephony has begun. I have been surveying end users that have deployed IP telephony to learn more about their deployments.

By and large, enterprises are not yet replacing their circuit-switched PBXs or building out new telecom switches based on IP. Instead, they are using IP telephony to augment their existing infrastructure. Typically, this is to save money by consolidating all interoffice traffic — both voice and data — onto a single network. Some deployments, however, are for new features enabled by IP telephony.

One clear message from early deployments is that users do not care what kind of technology provides their services. Users only want to make sure they are getting high-quality, effective services. This should come as no surprise to anyone — except perhaps those companies that built or bought enterprise IP telephony gateways requiring two-stage dialing. These gateways are gathering dust, while those that seamlessly interoperate with the existing infrastructure are being used regularly.

Voice Quality
The early objection to IP telephony was that the voice quality would not be acceptable for business communication. With few exceptions, the IT managers with whom I spoke are satisfied with the voice quality their systems produce, noting few to zero complaints from end users. In some cases, interoffice calls take place over the public Internet, and still deliver acceptable service. In almost all cases, the IP network is shared by voice and data applications — still maintaining acceptable service.

Gateways are not commodities. IT managers value some key features. For example, one Starvox StarGate system user with whom I spoke is very pleased with the gateway’s Failsafe and Fallback features. The StarGate system constantly monitors the quality of service (QoS) through the gateways, automatically diverting calls that exceed a configurable quality threshold to a PSTN backup. Calls get diverted less than 5 percent of the time. All calls receive a predictable service level, even with networks sharing voice and data traffic.

Cost Savings
One multinational company I surveyed is replacing a worldwide frame relay network with an IP-based virtual private network (VPN). It replaced a 96 Kbps CIR/384 Kbps burst-frame relay connection between the United States and Singapore with a firewall and T1 connection to the public Internet in Singapore. (The U.S. headquarters already had a similar configuration.) The company has IP telephony gateways in both locations. Besides expanding its capacity and giving Singapore users higher-bandwidth Internet access, the company is saving $90K per year on this single link. Replicated throughout its global network, IP telephony and IP VPN will deliver better service and save more than $1 million in service costs per year.

The company did need to change ISPs in Singapore when its original one could not deliver the predictable bandwidth required. But the end users are now satisfied with the voice quality going over the public Internet via firewalls.

Another company wanted to offer customers the ability to speak to customer service representatives using a Web browser. Since the company’s IT department had neither the budget nor the time to install a gateway, the company turned to another solution. They were able to quickly and effectively add a click-to-talk feature to their Web site by outsourcing the service via a WebDialogs server. A service provider hosts the gateway, directing the inbound calls to the company’s ACD for answer by the next available agent.

The telecom managers with whom I spoke are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about IP telephony. Besides saving money, telecom managers are keenly aware of the communication convergence advantage, and eager to evolve their knowledge and skills to include the new world of packet voice communication.
In the early days of IP telephony, every conference organizer wanted to hear from real people using the technology. I sat through many talks from IT managers considering using IP telephony. Three years later, you cannot throw a stone without hitting someone who really is using IP telephony — and enjoying all the benefits it delivers. 

Laurence J. Fromm is vice president, new business development for Dialogic Corporation. Dialogic is a leading manufacturer of high-performance, standards-based computer telephony components. Dialogic products are used in fax, data, voice recognition, speech synthesis, and call center management CT applications. The company is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, with regional headquarters in Tokyo and Brussels, and sales offices worldwide. For more information, visit the Dialogic Web site at www.dialogic.com.

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