ATLANTA—As voice over IP completes its first decade, the technology has become firmly established in corporate voice, data and video communications networks.
Now the eyes of the VOIP community are turning to what might be the next big thing on the horizon, FMC (fixed-mobile convergence), or the ability of cell phones and VOIP devices to send and receive voice and video calls—even though significant technology hurdles stand in the way.
"[FMC] is a good cool thing. I hope it happens in our lifetime, but if it does, it means we have a secret sauce for seamless roaming," said Jeff Pulver, chairman of Pulvermedia, which sponsored the VON Enterprise conference here, at which his remarks came.
In a demonstration that such convergence might not be too far off, Pulver initiated at the show a video call from his laptop PC to the cell phone of a worker at the offices of Radvision in Tel Aviv, Israel. The call worked and Pulvers Radvision contact appeared in a video screen, although the video quality was not completely life-like.
The VON conference marked the 10-year anniversary of VOIP technology, during which time VOIP has grown from the status of a fringe method of carrier bypass to broad acceptance by corporations, individuals and telecom carriers—a remarkable transformation that vindicates Pulvers early enthusiasm for the technology.
Pulver worked in the IT department of a Wall Street Firm until 1996, when he left to devote his time to advancing VOIP technologies, including the company that later became VOIP service provider Vonage Holdings.
"TDM switches five to seven years from now will be end-of-lifed. Its not that theyre not any good, but IP has become the way we are," Pulver said.
He warned, however, that all the capabilities that VOIP offers should be exploited. "We need to use VOIP and leverage it, or it will be disrupted," in the same way that VOIP has proved a disrupting force to conventional telephony, Pulver said.
Whether or not FMC happens anytime soon, plenty of companies are taking advantage not only of VOIPs lower costs, but of its ability to integrate better with data applications. The VON conference spotlighted several users who had success stories to tell.
One presenter, Mark Bailey, manager of IS for Thiele Kaolin, a Sandersville, Ga. producer of clay for industrial products and cosmetics, said the most important benefit of a corporate move to VOIP was one that many might overlook: improved disaster recovery and business continuity.
Thiele Kaolin achieved this, he said, by using redundant call managers to re-route calls. In other disaster-recovery benefits, he said he now keeps replacement parts on-site and can relocate his telephone system easily in an emergency, a capability known as survivable remote-site telephony.
Thiele Kaolin replaced a fifteen year-old PBX in 2004 in favor of a Cisco AVVID device, which at a cost of $235,189 saved his company $55,000 in annual maintenance. It also enabled Thiele Kaolin to extend the corporate telephone system to remote sites and eliminated telecom charges between those sites.