Convergence may be the buzz word of the moment but that's about all it is. There's been a lot of hype spouted about the union of voice and data and while it makes sense, it gets very boring when you see that the systems are few and immature. There are probably some feisty telcos and net heads out there now, choking on their croissants at such heresy against the future. Heresy it may be, but while convergence is an opportunity, it's a largely unrealised one to date.
There are a number of reasons why this wired utopia is taking ages to take off. The first is the technology itself. Telecoms and networking may have some shared roots, but they have long since grown apart. And there's also a reliability factor - imagine trying to run a telephone system across your network - the same network that crashes five times a day if someone in the office mentions the word quake. Telecoms systems are more reliable than networking ones, which makes integrating the two a bit of a trade-off.
Things could probably be worked out if the telecoms and networking experts didn't distrust each other. Having casually spoken to numerous observers over the past few months, the fact remains that telecoms people believe they are the best people to make the whole convergence thing happen - the same opinion exists in the networking camp. This kind of strained alliance that some telcos have with their networking partners does not make for the most reassuring sales pitch. This distrust has been seen in the slow arrival of systems from vendors - vendors that swore to the channel that they would make huge noises to customers about convergence - most of which has been made by the press shouting: "where the hell is this convergence, then?"
Customers are not ready to invest in convergence. Apart from not knowing what convergence is, many are suffering from the Scrooge complex as we race towards the dreaded millennium bug. A tight wallet, combined with general ignorance, gives resellers trying to sell converged systems as much hope as Julian Clary doing a joke above waist level.
And then there's the reseller who has been sold converged lines by his vendor, but does not have the staff to flog a complex package that barely exists. The only convergence here is the kind you see in a 50 vehicle pile-up on the M25.
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