WASHINGTON, D.C. — A senior executive of a Canadian telephony vendor says users will adopt voice-over-IP en masse this year, but an independent consultant has a less optimistic prediction.

Simon Gwatkin, vice-president of strategic marketing for Ottawa-based Mitel Networks Corp., said Wednesday there was “”wide adoption”” of voice-over-IP (VoIP) last year at the edge of the network, and this year the industry will move towards “”mass adoption.”” Gwatkin, who spoke during an event at the ComNet Conference and Expo, said only early adopters installed the technology in 2002.

Dale Grove, a Catharpin, Va.-based consultant who attended the VoIP conference, agreed the technology is becoming more popular, but wouldn’t go so far as to predict mass adoption this year. Although he agreed more users will install IP telephony and call quality has improved, it will probably be 2005 or 2006 before we see mass adoption, Grove said. He added his view may be skewed by the fact that most of his customers are U.S. government agencies, who may wait longer than corporations to adopt new technologies.

In any case, VoIP users will need channel partners who are well-versed in the technology, Gwatkin said, adding some resellers are going out of business due to a lack of VoIP expertise.

“”If they don’t have the expertise to help you, it will be a nightmare,”” Gwatkin said. VoIP is more complicated than traditional circuit-switched telephony because it requires testing at the application layer, not just at the physical layer, said Victor Alavi, president of the networking and IP services group at Scientific Devices, a Ridgefield Park, N.J.-based reseller which is exhibiting at ComNet. Alavi, who did not attend the VoIP track, made his remarks in an interview with ITBusiness.ca.

Greg Urban, vice-president of sales at Scientific Devices‘ networking and IP service group, said he has seen many large enterprises adopt VoIP, but has not seen a lot of interest from smaller organizations.

Scientific Devices resells products such as Brix Networks Inc.’s Advanced VoIP Test Suites, which are designed to help carriers and large organizations monitor VoIP service level agreements. The products test for factors like packet loss, latency, jitter, server discovery delay and audio loss.

The industry has established guidelines for packet loss (less than two per cent), jitter (less than 20 milliseconds) and other VoIP-related network problems, but these metrics don’t tell the whole story, said Philip Hippensteel, who spoke at the VoIP event. Hippensteel, an information systems professor at The Pennsylvania State University, said even if a VoIP implementation performs in accordance with industry standards, it can wreak havoc on other applications running on the same network. For example, he said, a two per cent packet loss can increase file transfer times by five to 30 per cent.

VoIP was a recurring theme during ComNet. Howard Anderson, founder and senior managing partner of Cambridge, Mass.-based YankeeTek Ventures, said during his keynote address that large firms tend to implement voice over IP at branch offices and remote locations first, before installing IP PBXs at the head office.

“”If it screws up – who cares?”” he quipped. Anderson, who founded and was president of Boston-based technology market research firm The Yankee Group for 30 years, said it’s difficult to predict how emerging technologies will be used. In the early 80s, for example, a major driving force behind local-area network adoption was the high price of printers, he said, but since then printers have become a lot cheaper.

Although reducing costs has been a major selling point for VoIP, users have adopted many telecommunications technologies, such as voice mail, without carefully studying the return on investment.

ComNet continues until Thursday.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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