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VoIP Telephony technology: connecting over the Internet.

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When most people think of dialing over the Internet, they think of the jittery, in-and-out connection associated with free services such as Skype. But cost savings, flexibility and increasing audio quality are all driving more businesses to migrate over to what are collectively called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, for their phone service.

In a June 26 report, market research firm TechNavio predicted it expects VoIP services world-wide to see 7.1 percent annual growth from 2011 to 2015.

"The sales have increased year over year," says GCI Sales Engineer Rodrigo "JR" Garcia.

He says GCI has offered VoIP systems for a long time, and offered VoIP services for a few years.

The VoIP systems are hardware systems installed at offices on-site that enable customers to use VoIP. They're often used by large companies and organizations. But a VoIP service makes the technology more affordable to a small or medium-sized business, Garcia says.

"Rather than having one of those expensive boxes on-site, which can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars," Garcia says, "we can provide the same VoIP services over the standard Internet or data connection."

The VoIP service GCI offers is what Garcia calls a hosted cloud voice solution. All that means, he says, is that the "brains" of the system are hosted at the telecom company's facility.

Data Line Determinations

But isn't the connection quality of a phone call held over the Internet notoriously bad? That doesn't have to be the case, says Alaska Communications Systems Vice President of Marketing Eric Lazo.

"A lot of consumers have the conversation on Skype and it starts to break up," he says. "It's because their data line is not provisioned for voice conversations; it's provisioned for downloading. It's not sized to do the cutting-edge technology they're trying to do."

He says the new VoIP systems and services packaged for businesses utilize an array of technological solutions that help improve the audio quality experienced by the user. Having enough bandwidth to deliver good voice quality is one part of that, Lazo says, but another involves setting up the system to prioritize voice communications going over the Internet medium as opposed to say, downloads.

Companies could save money using VoIP, Lazo says, but it's not necessarily in the area of bypassing long-distance or other conventional telephone fees. Yes, VoIP will save a little in that arena, he says, but the real savings to businesses come with the flexibility VoIP services offer.

With VoIP, he says, a small business owner could set her office number to ring on a cell or home phone when she's out, and still have the office voice mail take a message if she doesn't answer the call. It's kind of like a modern-day, technological version of bi-locating.

"Suddenly you don't have to be in the office for that important phone or conference call, and you can have your messages and communications delivered the way you want," Lazo says. "That's the bigger component people find in cost savings and feature functionality. They can do their business differently and it saves them money."

VoIP in Practice

But small business owner Jake Libby says VoIP's most attractive feature is the savings on expenses. His Wasilla-based Web and graphics design company, Crystal Clear Creative, has used a VoIP system for three years, he says.

"Rates are far superior to the local phone company," Libby says. "The nice thing is having it all consolidated in one bill. And the call quality is stellar."

Mike Rosko, owner of Advanced Telecommunications Systems of Alaska, says roughly 25 percent of his 200 customers use a VoIP system, and it's mainly for cost savings and efficiency.

"I have one customer with locations in Wasilla, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Soldotna," Rosko says, "and all they have to do is pick up their phone and dial an extension, and they're talking to the person in Fairbanks. It cuts out long distance charges for them completely."

The portability of the home office phone number on a VoIP system out to a remote location or home office is also an attractive feature for businesses, he added. "It's definitely growing," Rosko says.

Alaska Communications currently installs and maintains hardware for VoIP systems, and is looking at offering VoIP services in the future, says Lazo.

AT GCI, Garcia says both the VoIP system and the cloud-based VoIP service it offers are in high demand, and he expects that interest from businesses to grow.

MTA's marketing and sales director, Carolyn Hanson, says in an email interview that MTA has provided businesses with VoIP system solutions for 10 years, and is considering offering VoIP services in the future.

When VoIP Rules the World

In a July report, Research and Markets projected the global VoIP service market to see a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent from 2011 to 2015. The firm says cloud-based, or hosted, VoW services for small businesses are on the rise.

In mobile VoIP, less than a handful of companies--Fringland, Nimbuzz, Skype and Vonage--rule the global mobile VoIP market today, according to another July 2012 report from Research and Markets. The firm says the mobile VoIP market is attractive to new companies because the investment cost for entry into the mVoIP market is low, while the potential profits are high.

All that VoIPing by businesses and consumers could be expected to reduce telcos' revenues from traditional voice phone calls, of course. It's no secret the VoIP trend is one that appears likely to shake up the telecomm industry. In a February 2012 study on use of mVoIP in South Korea published in Telecommunications Policy, the author noted that the new technology is "a major rival to the most valuable service in the telecommunications industry and threaten(s) to change the ecology of the global communications industry."

VoIP Goes Mobile

What is mVoIP? It's like a get out of jail flee card for cell phone users. You don't expect people to get out of jail for flee in the real world, and you don't expect to talk to your friends (or txt ur bff) all day on your cell phone without paying for the service. But that's exactly what you can do with an mVoIP app, or an app that enables mobile VoIP on your cell phone. Some of the apps allow you to make calls or texts truly for flee, while others ding your minutes. Nimbuzz, a company whose app allows users to make free cell calls and texts on just about any platform, announced on July 31 that it had reached 100 million users, with roughly 60 percent of those based in the U.S.

But Nimbuzz also makes it easier for users to transmit pictures and video, which take up a subscriber's data.

In a transcript of the Alaska Communications group earnings conference call held this March, Chief Executive Officer Anand Vadapalli noted that, while voice traffic has gone down, "the double-digit growth in data consumption is driving growth in the Alaska market."

In the future, it seems, data is king.

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Unified Communications

VoIP has become an established norm for many businesses over the last decade and it's time to broaden the scope of the concept. IBM Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony integrate voice and video into real-time communications--one company's answer to unified communications. Cisco and Avaya are making advances in product innovations for interactions and exchanges using business applications as well.

The industry is providing integration for people to collaborate across towns, time zones and devices the world over. Unified communications enable people to get their jobs done with greater efficiency and more productivity.

Software and systems now integrate voice, video and data over Internet protocol across multiple platforms and devices. Companies need only one network--data--to conduct business, and that business can be conducted everywhere: in the office, out of the office, in the cloud, via mobile or Wi-Fi, it all streams together in a unified manner.

The telephone may be the original real-time device, but it's time to cut the cord.

Learn How

Search "unified communications" on these websites to learn more about VoIP telephony's place in unified communications.

* avaya.com

* b2ak.com

* business.att.com

* cisco.com

* ibm.com

* networkworld.com

* ucstrategies.com

* unifiedcommunications.com

Mary Lochner is a journalist living in Eagle River.
COPYRIGHT 2012 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:TELECOM & TECHNOLOGY
Comment:VoIP Telephony technology: connecting over the Internet.(TELECOM & TECHNOLOGY)
Author:Lochner, Mary
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Sep 1, 2012
Words:1384
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