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Welcome to the VoIP age

The University of Guelph is in an enviable position now that VoIP has become the technology sector's version of The New New Thing.

September 1, 2004  

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The University of Guelph is in an enviable position now that VoIP has become the technology sector’s version of The New New Thing.

At a time when many organizations are still in the early discussion stages with networking and telecommunications suppliers about making the big switch, Guelph is well past that having invested upwards of $16 million on equipment and network upgrades that brought it to the forefront of the IP world.

“We needed to look forward and choose the technology that was going to be mainstream in the longer term, ” says Kent Percival, the university’s manager of computing and communications services in this issue’s cover story.

Percival and others involved in the project were fortunate in that all the ingredients were there for a successful transition. It was as if all the planets were aligned — the existing phone system was antiquated, the data network needed replacing and the cash was there to head in an entirely new direction.

The completion this fall of the three-year project comes at a time when more and more organizations prepare to follow the path of the early adopters.

Don Proctor, vice-president and general manager of Cisco Systems Inc.’s voice technology group, was recently asked what impact the technology has had on the telecommunications industry.

“I like to think of voice over IP as the great equalizer,” he said. “This technology has helped enable service providers to court the business of different kinds of customers, regardless of geography or the underlying network technology involved.”

A survey released in late September by AT&T Corp. and the Economist Intelligence Unit, the business information arm of The Economist, gave a glimpse of how large organizations feel about the technology.

The additional promise of greater functionality and flexibility finally positions VoIP as a true rival to the dominance of today’s fixed line telephony, the study concludes. “The question is no longer if, but, when VoIP will become the new standard for voice traffic,” said Cathy Martine, AT&T’s senior vice president of Internet telephony.

The worldwide EIU survey of 254 senior executives on the future of corporate networking revealed that 43% of respondents report that they are currently using, testing or planning to implement VoIP within the next two years, and another 18% believe they will implement it in the long term.

According to the survey, market forecasts reflect the same bullishness. Research firm Gartner Dataquest predicted that voice revenue from today’s public switched telephone network (PSTN) will drop slightly through 2008, however, VoIP revenue will soar by 38.6% over the same period.

Canadian companies are slightly below the worldwide average for VoIP implementation, but the flip side is that they appear to have a better understanding of the overall benefits than some of their counterparts in other countries.

As writer Grant Buckler points out in the cover story, VoIP can be a good fit in the right circumstances and work well if implemented properly.

That is sound advice for any company that has or soon will join the burgeoning IP revolution.