The next stage of convergence

Updated: Oct 31 2005, 05:30am hrs
Even as India is far from having achieved complete saturation in basic telephone connectivity, the market is preparing itself for next-generation IP-based technology. Most of the players in the market prefer bundled offerings such as IP phones, VoIP, IP PBX and IP Centrix. Companies are waking up to the fact that IP-based technology can enable substantial telecom cost savings, and telcos are realising that they can offer various converged services using voice and data network services over IP.

After the adoption of voice and data, integrating video is the next big thing along with session initiation protocol (SIP) and push to talk (PTT) technologies. For now, the area of strategic focus for the future is the triple play-the convergence of voice, data and video. The only hindrance comes from regulatory hurdles and the need for better connectivity.

Convergence is in

According to research by Gartner, convergence in the enterprise is happening rapidly on both the wired and wireless LAN, reducing network and device costs and driving new capabilities for voice and data access across wired and wireless networks. More than 50 percent of employees conduct business away from the office, and voice is a primary business application for these mobile workers.

Today, a mobile strategy for the organisation does not merely mean issuing cellular phones to employees; mobility goes far beyond this. Organisations need to have enterprise-class mobility that will give consistent communications empowerment and control to all of their workers, whether they are at their desk or at their home-office, moving around the enterprise campus or out on the road.

As customers deploy various applications like IP telephony and unified messaging, they are demanding intelligent communication which will seamlessly integrate communication capabilities and business processes. This warrants the need for an extensible platform which will deliver the triple play. Customers today are investing in best-of-breed solutions which are based on open standards and are inter-operable with other vendors.

With businesses becoming complex and virtualised, organisations are demanding collaborative solutions such as meet-me conferencing and audio-video conferencing that will help them take decisions in real-time. With affordable bandwidth and falling infrastructure costs, the enterprise segment is looking for players who can provide such services. This shows a growing need for a shift to IP. Customers who currently are on traditional systems are talking of migrating to IP telephony and want to avail the obvious advantages which IP telephony brings.

The IP telephony market for CY2004 was around $60 million and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 35 percent in the next couple of years. (Source: Frost & Sullivan). As per F&S projections, the number of IP ports shipped will exceed that of TDM by 2007. However, this is not to say that the traditional telephony market will just disappear. The lower end of the market that is highly price-sensitive will continue to prefer traditional telephony. Harish M, General Manager, Business Development and Media Relations for Texas Instruments, India, believes that VoIP can be used extensively for voice-based communication, two-way video-conferencing or multi-party video-conferencing (apart from the basic data communication) as it is all packaged. This is a global trend. The future will include traditional PBAX/PBX to be replaced completely by VoIP in offices. VoIP will be available on the wireless LAN that will allow wireless phones within offices. VoIP is also used in cellular systems, for example, the PTT.

It can be used as radio trunking networks within closed user groups. "The main concern for us as a service provider comes in the form of obsolescence of existing technology and the cost of rolling out new technology. The main issue at that level is investments. Typically, enterprises combat this concern with a thorough cost-benefit analysis. Considering this, in the long run, deploying VoIP is an advantage," adds Harish.

SIP in VoIP

Looking forward in VoIP technology, the trend is to use SIP, a proposed Internet standard, for setting up, controlling and tearing down sessions in the Internet. Sessions include, but are not limited to, Internet telephone calls and multimedia conferences. SIP is also used for instant messaging (IM) and presence.