The many flavours of VoIP

As many of the Roberta Fox readers know, we have developed a Human Test Lab for next generation network and telecom technologies at the Fox Group, with a particular view of technologies that could or should be used within small and medium businesses.

The purpose of the lab is to bring together new technologies and inject them into our business to truly understand the capabilities, challenges and benefits of deploying these next generation voice, data and mobile solutions.

We also look at the time, effort, skills and processes required to install and support these emerging technologies as technology professionals to understand the challenges our clients would or could face within their own organizations.

During the product trials, we review the technologies to discover the features, functions and true business benefits that could be derived by adoption of these technologies.

In addition, we look at the challenges and barriers that could prohibit the adoption of these next-generation technologies by both small and large enterprises.

Lastly, we look at the challenges and barriers that could prohibit the suppliers from being able to support these technologies while maintaining good customer service and doing it profitably.

In updating our documentation for our current VoIP lab environment, we discovered that we are currently using seven types of Voice over IP technologies, that are being provided from six different companies.

Yes, you read right, seven types of VoIP applications! I am sure that many of you were not aware that VoIP could be currently delivered in seven different ways.

The most interesting thing about this discovery was the fact that we are talking to different categories of people with different types of technology.

We are now wondering if this will be a trend; where some users will feel more comfortable with one type of VoIP service versus another, and how this may change in the markets over time.

We will track and analyze these patterns to try to be able to discover which ‘type of VoIP’ will be used more by various segments and report back in the future.

The Seven Flavours of VoIP:

1. MSN Voice/Video- Chatting with an individual over MSN messenger voice & video.

Used mainly by family members like our nephew, nieces, etc. (primarily younger generation, who are very computer literate and comfortable with multi-media PCs).

2. Skype – using both the voice & video capabilities.

This application is used to communicate with one of our fellow consultants (Anna Mallin) who works out of British Virgin Islands , Muskoka & North York locations.

3. Single Line Consumer VoIP – on DSL provided from our current high-speed broadband carrier.

This is primarily used for incoming Toronto number appearance, and for some outgoing Toronto calling.

4. VoIP on CPE* equipment within Fox Group Corporate LAN.

This provides ability to re-locate phones and PCs as needed, on-demand anywhere throughout the Fox Group office and executive retreat buildings.

5. Carrier Hosted Enterprise VoIP service being provided from a different carriers.

This service is primarily used during projects where we create a dedicated voice environment across provinces adding multiple users as needed within our corporate ‘voice network’.

<p.6. External CPE VoIP with hard phones – CPE equipment used across the public Internet with hard phones at remote end connected to the central VoIP Fox server.

We use this service for our internal corporate voice needs providing consistent, 4-digit dialing and other corporate features for our small business distributed team.

7. External CPE VoIP with soft phones- on CPE equipment across the public Internet to VoIP soft phones via PC’s (in progress).

This application will be used for our consultants when working at client sites or alternate locations. It may also be used for clients while on projects to be part of our VoIP network. *Note CPE stands for ‘customer premises equipment’. This is equipment that is located on the customer site, rather than hosted by a provider.

What does this mean for customers?

Each one of the types of VoIP has a use and benefit for the customers depending on the parties of interest and preference of who they are communicating with.

From our own experience and observations, this leads us to believe that the customers will use multiple types of VoIP depending on preferences and confort with technology.

So what does this mean for the industry?

The telecom industry will have to provide different flavours and categories of VoIP depending on the technology sophistication and comfort of the customer.

Novel concept – bundles not based on number of lines and spend, but technology preference and sophistication.

Summary – Let the customer decide and may the most creative and innovative vendor win!

Stephen Lawson is a vice-president at the Fox Group. He is filling in for Roberta Fox, who will be back next month.

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