Voice over IP, so far slow to meet industry expectations for adoption, is showing signs of broader acceptance as new networking and service offerings come online.
Siemens Enterprise Networks LLC this week will launch its OptiPoint 600 IP phone, which can operate over IP and circuit-switched networks and provides a 320-by-240-pixel screen for such applications as Web browsers and e-mail clients, said company officials in Reston, Va.
Separately, Cisco Systems Inc., of San Jose, Calif., last week announced new features for its VPN (virtual private network) routers to support voice and video traffic with better quality of service and multiplexing support.
Joining the VOIP fray is 3Com Corp., also of San Jose, which next week will announce enhancements to its NBX IP telephony platform.
And on the services front, SBC Communications Inc. last week began offering managed VOIP Centrex services for business customers. SBC, of San Antonio, is using Lucent Technologies Inc. equipment to deliver the telephony features of its central-office Class 5 switches from multiple vendors to enterprises IP networks.
Although the market has fallen short of expectations, there appears to be a growing interest in IP telephony among enterprises. Last quarter, the enterprise market for IP telephony grew 37 percent compared with the same period a year ago, according to Phoenix-based Synergy Research Group Inc.
Doug Haluza, director of engineering and new technology at Lexent Inc., welcomes Ciscos VPN improvements for voice. Lexent in January switched from a frame relay network to an IP Security, VPN-based IP network to connect its 12 offices. It also began using VOIP at its Hicksville, N.Y., office.
Ciscos software upgrade will help Lexent use bandwidth to the Hicksville office more efficiently. "We were an early adopter," Haluza said of using voice through Cisco VPNs. "We were able to deploy it on Day One, but we had to put workarounds in place. Now it works exactly the way it needs to work."
Still, IP telephony remains ahead of the curve for many users. Chris Martin, a WAN engineer at the Northwest Regional Educational Services District, in Hillsboro, Ore., said Ciscos VPN enhancements could require additional memory.
"It may be a great technology solution, but I dont think its going to bite well because people wont be able to afford the additional cost ... nor will they be able to have the technical expertise to support it," Martin said.