With VoIP moving beyond traditional telephony replacement into the application-obsession phase, companies are able to perform some savvy communication moves even the supersonic Jetsons would be proud of.
From programming your mobile phone to open doors to adopting more complex applications that link VoIP systems with back-end call centre and corporate information systems, IP telephony is enabling a host of business and consumer scenarios.
The local market has undergone a major shift recently as the deployment of IP telephony systems surpassed those of traditional systems, IDC senior telecommunications analyst, Susana Vidal, said. According to the analyst firm, migration to VoIP will top $850 million by 2009.
Additionally, the reason to jump into the game has gone beyond simply getting cheaper calls. Some of today's top benefits include a reduction of operational and hardware costs, improved communications across the board and access to advanced applications.
"Enterprises are moving beyond cost savings to focus on applications available through VoIP systems as their key reasons for deployment," Vidal said.
The industry has moved on from simply having a chat about protocols, voice/video and data to a heated discussion on visual, audio and application-specific gear, Nortel chief convergence architect, Mick Regan, said.
"We've gone past the low-hanging fruit," he said. "People are now looking at the overall benefits and productivity gains thanks to specific applications."
3Com's convergence business manager, Chris Brown, said mobility applications were a real crowd pleaser. "There is a greater trend for mobility in the workplace with road warriors and telecommuters wanting IP telephony applications like unified messaging and presence-enabled dialling," he said.
Key developments are taking shape in the handheld arena.
"The exciting thing is convergence at the handheld level particularly with instant messaging," Brown said.
Indeed, vendors are busily developing a host of converged applications.
"Vendors are more focused on vertical markets, offering specific applications in areas such as hospitality and education," Vidal said. "We'll see more resellers become vertically aligned, selling IP telephony to specific markets like government."
On the application front, the goal is to give users access availability and presence information, as well as manage phone calls and conferencing among computers and desktop phones. Phase one was to move beyond voice services.
"Additional value-added services like video, presence and integration with company applications, are the ones that will increase productivity," she said.
Resellers should also get savvy across several IP telephony vendor product sets, Vidal suggested.
"Partners should be multi-vendor, but this is hard considering the cost of certifications," she said. "Vendors have an unwritten rule that they want partner exclusivity, but this isn't practical and partners need to branch out."