Telcos Embrace VoIP as Never Before

With advances in VoIP technology finally reaching the stage where voice calls can seamlessly share data IP lines, America’s telcos have decided now is the time to finally put the technology onto the corporate desktop.

Over the past few months all of the country’s major telcos have announced coming VoIP services on dedicated, purpose-built IP networks, said Jon Arnold, VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan, a market research and consultancy firm. AT&T, which has been offering some form of VoIP since 2001, for example, is already running TV ads touting the company’s re-emerging image as a networking company.

Why? One word: Revenues.

“The phone companies are seeing the growth is in data, not in voice,” said Arnold. “So, if they want to keep those customers and go where the revenue streams are going to be growing, they better find a way to get that data business.”

And that is precisely what they plan to do, said Dave Ferguson, AT&T’s vice president of Professional Services.

“The benefits that we will derive from being good at this is more business,” he said.

Today’s telcos have already invested heavily in IP backbone networks in order to save on internal costs. By taking the next step and extending these networks to the corporate desktop (figuratively and literally), traditional voice carriers can offer customers a whole new palette of services from simple office-to-office VoIP over the corporate LAN/WAN (available today from any number of vendors in all manner of configurations) to the “Mother of All Offerings”: converged services that tie voice and data streams into one very portable desktop application.

Bring in WiFi and the promise of anywhere, anytime unified messaging, so ballyhooed during the dot-com bubble, suddenly becomes a reality. No longer will workers be tied to a desk or office. With VoIP, employees (for better or worse) will take their extensions with them wherever they go.

“What you start doing is, you start being able to serve the customer more like they work today,” said SBC’s Marianne Gedeon, director of Voice and Data Convergence.