VOIP Steals Show at Supercomm

The growing adoption of VOIP was the prime focus of the Enterprise Networking and Services Conference at Supercomm.

CHICAGO—Supercomm, the four-day annual telecom show, opened here Monday with a day of conferences and workshops that reflected the industrys long-heralded embrace of voice over IP.

The event, which attracts telecommunications carriers and vendors from all over the globe, has widened its scope this year to include more sessions of interest to the enterprise, including EntNet, an enterprise networking and services subconference. Another conference-within-a-conference, SIP Summit, is dedicated to the Session Initiation Protocol.

EntNet kicked off in a packed meeting hall at the McCormick Place, where more than 300 people gathered as industry analysts and vendors discussed the critical issues surrounding VOIP.

"The rationale for VOIP has shifted from cost reduction to revenue generation," said Jon Arnold, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan Ltd. Enterprise customer premise equipment is rapidly migrating from PBX to VOIP, he noted, and he believes the legacy vendors are vulnerable. As a gauge of VOIP adoption, he cited some prominent infusions of capital to such VOIP-centric companies as Newport Networks Ltd., Netrake Corp. and IP Unity Corp.

Other drivers, in Arnolds view: a favorable regulatory climate; the beginning of VOIP integration with handheld devices; and the proliferation of Wi-Fi and wireless broadband.

/zimages/6/28571.gifVoice over Wi-Fi still has some bugs to work out. Click here to read more.

Comparing the potential of VOIP to the transformative effect of railroads on far-flung communities, Arnold posited the vertical-market possibilities inherent in real-time, multi-media interactions in such fields as online games; distance learning; home health care; property and casualty insurance; security/surveillance; and online dating. The development of micro-payment systems will be a further impetus to some of these applications, he added.

Rich Tehrani, publisher of Internet Telephony magazine, sketched out a VOIP application that employed Wi-Fi, business application integration and handheld trends. He described a scenario where a shoe stores inventory application was tied to wireless VOIP and a customer service call center, allowing the company to alert customers to the arrival of a new shoe style theyve been waiting for.

Chris Fine, telecom analyst at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said that VOIP adoption is no longer in question, but its timing is still uncertain. A recent Goldman Sachs survey of 200 CIOs found that 35 percent of them plan to install at least some VOIP equipment within the next 12 months. Early adopters were willing to rip and replace PBXes, he said; the larger part of the market may have already upgraded their PBXes for Y2K–too recently to trade in. He, as well as Arnold, agreed that small and midsize businesses will form fertile ground for adoption in the near term, and that carriers will aggressively market outsourced IP switching services to them.

Next Page: Voice centralization.