Australia, you're standing at the voice over IP cliff

Australia, you're standing on networking industry's cliff staring off into the future world of voice over IP.

But don't look down; you're expecting the carriers to catch you, but they're still teaching sales people about the Internet.

According to Richard Freemantle, Cisco Systems' new VP Asia Pacific, companies must re-engineer their business systems to depend on fully-integrated IP-based voice and data networks.

The penalty for delaying the move is to risk losing to more efficient competition, and not achieving massive savings in telecommunications costs.

"The message to corporate executives is, make your business a networked business," Freemantle said.

To many users his message is no surprise, as it reflects Cisco's heavy focus on IP-networking and Internet-enabled technologies.

The problem is, the industry is still coming to terms with how to achieve such noble business goals, when viewed in light of a huge unknown quantity -- Telstra.

Telstra and its competitors face the prospect of catering for the enterprise voice over IP revolution. It's a task that involves changing not just its communications technol-ogy, but the attitudes of its people.

"I know that Telstra, with its 1200 sales people, is trying to effect that change and drag all these people from faxes to the Internet," Freemantle observes.

Carriers such as Telstra must change their own business processes to handle the IP world, something Freemantle agrees is much harder for an incumbent than a market entrant.

"Because of deregulation, the phone companies have got to sell value. And if all they do is sell a bit of wire, they just become marginalised as bandwidth suppliers," he said.

Freemantle, a former Cisco Australia managing director and head of Cisco's European operations, is just two weeks into his new job working from the company's North Sydney head office.

He believes Australia still offers "explosive growth opportunities", particularly in the telecommunications industry, as networking vendors look for new growth areas away from the flooded enterprise market.

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