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How Skype will Dominate Enterprise VoIP

After years of little or no traction with enterprises, Skype (News - Alert) is now poised to dominate business communications services. It’s the company’s Skype for SIP service that will turn the tide, but not quite the way most people expect.

Skype is already the world’s largest carrier of international voice traffic (12 percent of all such traffic in 2009) and the dominant platform for person-to-person voice and video everywhere. But this is based on individuals. Skype remains a no-no for most IT directors. There are several issues.

The primary issue is Skype’s peer-to-peer technology. P2P technology allows Skype to scale with almost no cost. It also connects calls despite firewalls and network address translation. As a result, Skype just works, where other VoIP services have configuration and support problems. So P2P is a critical advantage for Skype.

Unfortunately, the term P2P has nefarious connotations, and the idea that Skype can penetrate firewalls goes against basic IT precepts.

The related issues are security and privacy. Here the problem is mostly perception, as Skype calls are substantially more secure than most other phone calls, TDM or VoIP. But perceptions are important, and changing minds can take years. Initially, VoIP was less than toll quality, and lingering perceptions took years to overcome.

Today, fear of VoIP is largely behind us. New PBXs support VoIP, and service providers have begun offering SIP trunking. But SIP trunking is still fairly difficult to deploy – features vary and configuring firewalls or installing session border controllers can be complex. Here’s where Skype sneaks in.

Skype for SIP is simplistic – voice only and PSTN numbers only. The company doesn’t even call it SIP trunking, although it is. But it’s low cost – perfect for IT departments on a tight budget, in other words, all IT departments!

Then Skype’s simple installation makes it easy to trial, and importantly, easy to deploy as a secondary service – avoid the TDM vs. SIP decision. Once Skype is in the door, its competitive advantages will win it an ever-increasing share of the enterprise’s communication minutes. Low cost and actually works wins business. But once the IT department stops fighting Skype, Skype’s rich communications on PC clients will capture the rest of an enterprise’s internal communications – first individuals, then departments, and then the whole enterprise. Why invest in specialized video gear when Skype video on PCs is easy to use and free?

Skype for SIP is simple and limited to voice, but that’s the key for Skype to penetrate enterprises and then take over enterprise communications. IT

Brough Turner (News - Alert) is co-founder of Ashtonbrooke Corp. (, a startup involved in wireless infrastructure.

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