Integration worries slow IP technology uptake

Integration teething problems are forcing Australian enterprises to take baby steps with Internet Protocol-driven technology for voice applications.

Until IP technology grows up and becomes more reliable, users claim they are more likely to implement incrementally rather than rip out existing telephony infrastructure.

Klaus Boehme, manager of Cairns, Qld-based ISP Internet Information Group, said he has seen a number of inadequacies in the protocols in relation to convergence with the computer.

Boehme, who uses voice over IP (VoIP) daily to ship phone calls and lines between regional offices, said the software that allows users to use a computer and sound card as a 'phone', "isnot up to business standard".

According to Boehme, the protocol known as H323 for VoIP has been "unreliable" for a number of reasons, "mostly by its inability to work well through Network Address Translation, which is the shared Internet connection".

"The day they get protocols right and are able to use them at a business standard, is the day we will see the real convergence take place," Boehme said. "The potential is there, just not quite up to scratch yet."

Steven Ebsary, independent IT consultant at ISP Westnet, said, "The biggest downfall of IP telephony is the integration with the other software and hardware out there. That needs to be improved before it really takes off."

Ebsary also said a lack of support from telecommunication providers is an issue. Instead, organisations must rely on expensive specialists.

Enterprise communications manager at research firm Frost & Sullivan Moaiyad Hoosenally, said larger organisations are highly unlikely to tear down existing infrastructure and equipment to replace it entirely with IP.

"They would be more willing to spend on reliable, scalable, open architecture systems and reputable voice communication systems, while integrating IP with certain facets of the organisation," Hoosenally said.

The high number of market participants in the voice communications equipment industry has also led to a price plateau, he said, as vendors compete on providing service and features instead of battling on cost.

For this reason, PABX vendors are partnering with system integrators and consultants to extend their reach. As modern PABXs are scalable, they can accommodate from as few as two users to as many as 30,000 users, supporting both digital and analogue terminal devices. The demand for an open-standards system is expected to drive the market in years to come, as such an approach would allow organisations to enjoy greater investment protection when there is a need to scale upwards or add features to their systems, the researchers say.

On the advent of IP solutions for the voice market, Hoosenally said, "IP PABX systems provide an avenue for the convergence of voice and data. However, adoption is constrained due to customer apprehension."

While organisations with more than 1000 employees were once goldmines for PABX vendors, recent market consolidations and retraction has caused a shift in balance, by which the SME market has emerged as the future-rich spot for growth, Frost & Sullivan said.

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