Executives from MCI Canada have visions of an all-IP world, in which users get their voice and data services over the same network using the same connection, but a telecom analyst warns that voice-over-IP users will have a hard time tracing

the sources of technical glitches.

Tim Dickins, MCI Canada’s vice-president of sales, said Thursday carriers are using IP to route voice calls through their backbone networks, and service providers are using voice-over-IP to provide long distance at a discount.

“”It’s just a matter of time before that whole convergence thing comes to businesses and the consumers,””Dickins said during a media briefing, adding in a few years, there won’t be any reason to provide copper local loops to new homes.

MCI Canada, which was founded as UUNet Canada in 1991 and later renamed WorldCom Canada, is shifting its focus from Internet access and hosting to IP-based applications, including VoIP, Web conferencing and streaming.

MCI Canada offers data services such as Frame Relay and private IP networks to offices in other countries.

“”If someone wants a dedicated line that’s not on the Internet from Toronto to Jakarta, we can facilitate that,”” Mazzotta said.

Dickins said one of the most lucrative areas for MCI Canada is voice-over-IP, because the company has 200 employees who are familiar with IP technology and it doesn’t run the risk of cannibalizing its own customer base.

Unlike the incumbent carriers, MCI never offered local phone service.

Voice over IP works well, but when there’s a problem, it’s very difficult to trace the source and fix it, said Roberta Fox, president of Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group Consulting.

Fox said consultants at her company have the option of using VoIP, but before making voice calls, they have to click on to icons on their desktop to ensure there won’t be a problem with the network. If there is any concern about the network, they would use the public switched telephone network to make the call.

She added VoIP works well on backhaul networks, but when companies use it for end-to-end voice communication, it’s very difficult to figure out where on the network the problem occurred.

“”It gets into finger-pointing of who’s responsible,”” she said.

Furthermore, Fox added, companies running voice over their IT networks need to make sure the network will support voice and they have the right troubleshooting tools available.

Dickins said some users are reluctant to rely on an Internet connection for both data and voice services, but once VoIP becomes more reliable, more customers will be willing to buy the service.

Sam Mazzotta, MCI Canada’s director of product development, said the market’s acceptance of VoIP will be similar to customers’ attitudes towards cellphone service.

“”If you were to say to somebody 10 years ago, ‘If I were to give you a device that, well maybe you can make a call and the voice quality’s sort of there,’ they’d say, ‘No, I’m used to my landline phone. Cell phones will never take off.'””

Mazzotta added despite the inferior call quality, cellphones became popular because they are more convenient, and users will be attracted to VoIP because of features that aren’t available on the PSTN, such as the ability to take an IP phone to a different location and still have the same phone number.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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