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You Are Here: Home - Newsletters - "Organized For A Living" - Article

Internet Telephones -- Too Good To Be True?

Do internet telephones sound too good to be true? Well that was exactly what I was thinking, so I decided to delve into the world of Internet telephony (also known as VOIP or IP-TELEPHONY) to hear what all the noise was about. In researching this particular subject I wasn't quite sure where to begin so I decided to take a tactical approach toward learning about this constantly growing technology and how it can benefit businesses. The primary focus of my questioning was to determine whether or not there truly is a benefit for businesses to crossover from their existing phone call center SYSTEMS to this newly emerging technology.

Voice Over Internet Protocol is a process of sending voice telephone SIGNALS over the Internet or other data network. The terms is used interchangeably with the phrase "Internet telephony".

I decided I'd better ask the "experts" so I placed a call to Dave Immethun, Director of Product Marketing for Packet8. Packet8 provides affordable and easy-to-use broadband telephone and videophone service. According to Immethum, “With Internet telephony, upfront capital INVESTMENT is significantly reduced. Businesses no longer have to pay the huge upfront costs that are associated with the standard phone systems and very often these huge outlays do not include dial tone or phone number. With Internet telephony, businesses have a significantly reduced startup costs and a very small monthly fee per extension that includes the telephone number and dial tone. Another benefit is the central FUNCTIONALITY that Internet telephony provides such as auto attendant and full conference bridging."

The benefits of Internet telephony seem to break down as follows:
  • COST savings -- there is an increased choice in the number of plans a business can choose and reduced start up costs

  • USABILITY -- provides more features and flexibility such as blocked calls and unlimited bridge conferencing

  • COVERAGE -- businesses are no longer limited geographically

  • PRODUCTIVITY -- the internet telephony interface is like a web page which is easier to manage then a traditional call center phone system, and users no longer have to ferret out features and functionality of their phone system

  • EASE of use -- user's experience is significantly improved because they can get more out of the telephone system and return on investment is higher than traditional phone sets.

During a recent telecommunications tradeshow visit, I posed this question to many of the vendors, partners, speakers and participants. While some of the concerns varied there appeared to be three primary concerns:
  • RELIABILITY -- jitters, breaks and cracks are a few clarity and connection problems experienced when voice is transmitted over the Internet

  • SECURITY -- according to Ben Charny, “Like e-mail, Internet telephony calls find their way by locating an Internet Protocol address, a unique set of numbers assigned to each device connected to the Web. Telemarketers can send messages to thousands of addresses at a time, rather than tying up a single phone line to make one call. The biggest likely impact of SPAM will be on voice mail boxes. They'll dutifully record every message they receive, while a human answering the phone will likely hang up within a few seconds. That could have a tremendous effect on providers that offer free voice mail; they would have to expand their storage capabilities to handle the additional spam messages.”

  • CONFIGURATION and set up -- businesses need to do a thorough and accurate network survey; issues can result because existing legacy networks are not properly upgraded to support real time voice and data network; businesses need to focus on communication links that connect homes and offices to carrier networks and the Internet

Those I spoke with believe the APPLICATIONS that reside within internet telephone devices will be the most important and more exciting bundled services for businesses. According to Tom Mayer of Hospitality Services Consulting, an organization located in Tampa, Florida that specializes in internet telephony in the hotel industry,” The hotel industry is already embracing this technology simply for the savings. Hotels save 30-70% by using Internet telephony.”
  • enriched APPLICATIONS and protocols -- new standards will be adopted like 8021.6, 8021.p or 8021.Q; and application will be fine tuned to include enhanced 911 calling

  • more robust WIFI infrastructure -- with the emergence of free WiFi and low monthly costs for internet telephony we could see cellular mobile phones become a thing of the past

  • creative BUNDLING of internet telephony services -- quad mode phones that offer WiFi, global systems, general packet radio service, and Bluetooth

  • increase in MIGRATION from narrow band on to broadband -- this will bring about a larger convergence of voice and data services

  • CONSOLIDATION of the telecommunications industry -- the landscape of the large incumbent telephone carriers may change significantly and someone like Google may be your telephone carrier; companies with the greatest internet leverage could dominate the telecommunications industry

  • Federal and State REGULATORY actions -- as of July 27, 2004 there were 29 cases and actions pending

So what are some of the questions that businesses need to be asking when selecting an Internet telephony provider? In my discussions with the experts in internet telephony I found out that the most prevalent questions focused on specific business GOALS. It seems that the major issues can be solved and /or prevented through better planning. Here are some of the questions you should ask your Internet telephony provider before signing up:
  • What is your current business MODEL?
  • Do you provide the TRANSPORT and the application?
  • Can you describe your PROCESS? (the simpler the better)
  • Where are you going with the IMPLEMENTATION?
  • What’s your direction? Do you have a VISION?
  • Have you implemented this and do you know as a customer that it WORKS?


Bronson Tang is the founder of EtomicMail, a technology firm dedicated to helping businesses, save time and money while increasing their productivity. He is also the author of the e-book, "The Tao of Business”. You may contact him at .

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