You've probably heard that VoIP technology cuts telecommunications costs and improves productivity, among other benefits. It also has useful features and capabilities that conventional phone technology can't offer. But I believe there are at least five things your customer may not know about VoIP.
VoIP quality – it's all about the network
A common misconception about VoIP calls is that sound quality is poor, but since VoIP is digital it should provide better sound quality than analogue phones. VoIP quality continues to improve, with some companies introducing CD-quality sound. The interference you may hear during a VoIP call is actually a function of the network supporting the call. VoIP Quality of Service (QoS) depends on several factors, most importantly the strength of your broadband connection. Before deploying a VoIP system, assess the network to verify that your customer can have optimal VoIP calls.
Building a customer's phone system
Installing and managing an enterprise-wide phone system can seem like an overwhelming and expensive task. A business can't afford to be incommunicado for long periods, but customers can get up and running in mere hours. Customise the bundle to fit customer needs and do most of the setup off-site. Then it's usually a matter of plugging in the PBX and phone lines, dropping phones off at desks and training users on what is generally a straightforward interface. Resellers can also manage the system and address any issues remotely, cutting down on break/fix response times. The customer can then invest more in building custom integration applications, possibly with a software-based VoIP system that may further assist productivity.
VoIP is not always the cheaper option
Since a call is travelling over the internet it must be free, right? Well, not necessarily. Just like paying a flat monthly fee for local telephone calls, or a per-minute charge for long-distance calls, dialling over the internet can come at a price, whether direct or indirect. It may or may not be cheaper than standard PSTN. Cost also varies according to your call scenario. For instance, calling VoIP-to-VoIP within the same network can be free (think Skype to Skype). However, when a VoIP user calls a non-VoIP user, the call leaves the VoIP network and terminates into a regular public phone network, where it is subject to the usual charges.
The difference is also a matter of who the customer is paying, not just how much. If the customer is using a VoIP carrier or an internet telephony service provider with termination points around the world, the cost to call internationally or long distance, for instance, can be cheaper than a traditional carrier. However, a VoIP call from New York to a non-VoIP user in London will not necessarily cost any less than dialling from a standard phone.
VoIP and traditional phone lines can co-exist
In certain cases where calling from the VoIP phone to a non-VoIP line can cost the customer more, it might make sense to retain some copper lines. It's not all or nothing. VoIP can be used to supplement your customer's analogue lines and pave the way for them to set up their own least-cost routing (LCR). You can do something similar with a PBX if customers have a mix of traditional and VoIP lines at their disposal.
SIP trunks don't exist
With VoIP, multiple calls can occur simultaneously over a single broadband connection. This concept of the 'trunk' was borrowed from old PSTN technology and applied to VoIP so that providers could charge customers more and they wouldn't question it because they were used to only being able to make as many calls at a time as they had lines. So, if you have ever been confused by the concept of a SIP trunk, there's good reason – there's no such thing. VoIP providers should simply charge per minute. The customer shouldn't require 10 SIP 'trunks' to support 10 people on the phone at once – that's not how SIP works.
Tristan Barnum is product line director for business phone systems at Digium
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