VoIP: 21st Century telephony

The telephone was the latest method of communication to be overhauled. No longer do we need to go to the effort of picking up a receiver and actually dialling the number: these days our computer can do it all for us and it’s much cheaper too.
The way things are going we probably won’t even need to be there soon, we’ll just tell our laptop what we want to say and when we want to say it and it will do the job for us. Imagine your mum’s surprise when she receives a phone call with a “speak and spell” electronic voice asking her if she can baby sit for you on Saturday night.
Seriously though, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has revolutionised the way we make telephone calls since it’s introduction in the 1990s.
Just as emails made letter writing an unnecessary luxury and texting now makes us wonder how on earth we ever used to make plans with friends before constantly informing them our every move, VoIP has nearly made desk or home phones a thing of the past. Well, nearly. But not quite, their days are numbered though!
But what exactly is it? Well, the concept is pretty simple really. Instead of using standard telephone lines, your voice is converted into data packets that are routed over the internet in a similar way that an email is sent. It is incredibly popular because many of us already own the technology through which VoIP operates, namely a computer, and, of course, it’s pretty cheap.
An Orange-commissioned survey revealed that many SME’s have already exploited the advantages of VoIP, with 57 per cent adopting a system. A similar number are considering investing in it in the near future.
It’s no surprise that VoIP is a popular choice within this group, when you consider that many bosses are under constant pressure to keep costs low. Such organisations may have many small offices, remote workers and employees who need to travel a lot in their role.
“The convergence of voice and data is enabling increased productivity and efficiency by cutting the need to commute so often,” says Craig Joseph, chief operating officer at communications solutions company InClarity.
What is surprising, though, is that the low cost isn’t the main draw for these businesses. Small businesses tend to be technology optimists and find it easier than larger corporations to adopt and adapt to new communications systems.
Having a single supplier covering all communications needs has great advantages for organisations of this size. The survey backed this up by finding that 55 per cent of respondents thought it advantageous to have a single point of contact for all their needs. That’s great news for communications companies. In fact, a significant 17 per cent of people confirmed that they would opt for a single supplier even if it meant the cost of services was slightly higher.
So could this really be the end of the good old dog and bone as we know it? Well, in short, not really. Not yet anyway. The phone system in the UK is a vast infrastructure in which huge sums of money have been invested so it’s unlikely to disappear quickly. However, BT has announced plans to transfer to an all-IP infrastructure by 2008, so the ball is rolling.

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