Cisco Systems last week introduced seven telephony products that will make possible a fully converged network of data, voice and personal services for enterprises and universities.
"This past quarter, weve seen more orders than we ever had before for Internet Protocol telephony," said Bob Erdman, director of product management at Cisco. "Customers are doing their analyses of the technology, and when capital budgets loosen up, theyll come back with large-scale deployment of this technology."
Volume sales will start in July on the products, which Cisco is pitching as being able to increase employee productivity.
The suite centers on a telephone that will cost between $200 and $800.
"That sounds like a lot to pay for a phone for me," said Larry Hettick, vice president of consulting at market analysis firm TeleChoice. "But if it is enabling new service features that increase productivity, a business case could be made for it."
The Dow Chemical Co. has bought the suite and plans to get telephones for each of its 40,000 employees. Among other customers are banks, government offices and universities.
The students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff can order pizzas, watch MTV, call up research, and get voice-mail and e-mail on the same system.
The university invested $10 million in Ciscos suite of telephony products to replace its aged Centrex system. "If it was going any better, I couldnt stand it," said Maurice Ficklin, information manager at the school.
Ficklin said the new system will pay for itself in three years. "We used to lose $500,000 a year on our telephone system," he said. "Now, were actually making money."
Thats because, starting in the fall, students will pay $5 per month for voice-mail, $20 per month for unified messaging and an as-yet-undetermind fee for 80-channel cable TV. Revenue will be enough to give every student free high-speed access to data, and still leave a surplus to repay the capital costs quickly, Ficklin said.
The telephones are connected to Ethernet networks that start at 10 megabits per second. A typical telephone conversation requires 8 kilobits per second, leaving almost all of the capacity unused.
With Ciscos suite, enterprises can keep most of the servers and other equipment at the main office. Employees walking from lab to cubicle can use any telephone they pass. By punching in a password, the telephone becomes personalized, able to retrieve voice-mail and e-mail — it even lets employees forward their calls using voice commands.