Voice-over IP (VoIP) is now seen as a viable business tool – one that will eventually displace traditional PBX calls and take its place in the all-IP future. High-quality business-grade solutions run over private networks and offer similar functionality and Quality-of-Service (QoS) to ISDN.
Services based on the SIP or H.323 protocols over Multi-Protocol Label Switching Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (MPLS IPVPN), National Ethernet or Dedicated Internet Access over Ethernet may help a business avoid the public internet and uncontrollable elements that can affect performance.
Yet many businesses attracted by VoIP worry the migration will be disruptive. Equipment vendors, OEMs, network operators and resellers can open up testing environments to dispel the fear.
Most customers need to mix and match IP telephony elements from different sources. Equipment developed to the same standards may not necessarily connect and work the first time, without further testing and configuration.
For businesses, this can be a real issue. If not, sales calls could be lost and the brand of the organisation damaged as customers struggle to get through. This would eventually degrade the reputation of VoIP as well and make businesses unwilling to deploy the technology.
Thus believes testing facilities should be offered to customers and equipment vendors for free. Perhaps the best method would be for the service provider to test directly with the customer’s voice equipment vendor.
The advantage of doing it with the vendor is that all the core functionality can be tested in one go with appropriate specialists.
This interoperability information can be made available by the service provider or the vendor, to any prospective new customers, often eliminating the need for subsequent re-testing.
Testing should cover a range of elements, including PBX registration, call set-up, release, hold and transfer, conference calling, fax, and other standard voice call functions.
Testing need not be painful and can be scaled to meet customer or vendor requirements. Lab-based testing allows vendors to bring their equipment to a dedicated testing centre.
This lets engineers perform full functionality testing on their own equipment in a controlled environment, with the assistance of experienced engineers, enabling them to define the optimum configuration for use in the field.
Alternatively, testing can be conducted remotely over the Internet using IPsec tunnelling to ensure security.
At present many service providers charge a premium for interoperability testing, but for the process to gain mainstream acceptance they would need to offer it as a free service for those customers and vendors which express a serious interest in using an operator’s VoIP product.
On this issue has put its money where its mouth is and does exactly that, offering free access to both vendors and customers alike -- subject to terms and conditions.
Through such an approach, end-users are able to deploy VoIP services safe in the knowledge that they are tested and their equipment can interoperate. With these safeguards in place the road to VoIP will be smooth.
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