Some players in the data-integration market are claiming to be better placed to do voice over IP (VoIP) systems integration than their voice integration brethren. Voice integrators only understand phone systems, while IP routing, switching, bandwidth management and network storage leaves them cold, or so the argument goes.
The reality is very different. Good voice specialists saw the trend towards data, video and voice convergence some years ago and began to adapt through a
combination of partnering, acquisition and building in-house skills. Matrix and Azzuri bought data specialists to boost their data capabilities. Freedom moved earlier still, partnering with EDS Memorex and putting its engineers through Cisco and Microsoft training to help achieve the same ends.
This investment has already paid off as many voice integrators have won major voice-data, PBX-IP hybrid integration and maintenance contracts with large organisations in the public sector.
High demand for traditional voice skills will remain for some years to come as most organisations, large and small, refuse to throw out their heavy investment in robust PBX systems and applications in favour of VoIP systems enterprise-wide. Demand for hybrid voice systems will actually increase for at least the next five years and data integrators will struggle to support them.
The fact that the cost of airtime and call charges has fallen by as much as 30 per cent over the last two years, has only served to add weight to the argument inside organisations that PBX-based voice systems should be given an extended lease of life.
It is perhaps no surprise that despite more than 80 per cent of new installations today being VoIP-enabled, only 20 per cent will have the VoIP turned on and integrated into net-work backbones.
Most data specialists have not built the in-house skills to a high enough level. Yet this training is vital if companies are to get the most from any voice system. All the evidence that we have seen indicates that voice integrators are actually better placed to take advantage of the VoIP evolution than their data cousins.
That said, voice integrators cannot afford to sit on their hands. A big transition is under way and they all need three-to-five year business plans to absorb the necessary data and network skills. They must also be on the lookout for new applications, such as IPCentrex for remote and home working, which should serve to accelerate adoption of VoIP. The game is far from over yet.
Tom Perry is head of marketing at Freedom Communications
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