The pace, curiosity and interest about voice over IP in Canada from our corporate clients is certainly increasing. Many of them are wondering not only what VoIP REALLY is, but more importantly, what it means to their organizations, what are the challenges it will bring, and why they should care.

I

recently chaired an “”Implementing VoIP”” Conference in Toronto. The attendees were a diverse representation from small, medium and large corporations and also included multiple government groups from across Canada.

Numerous case studies were presented from firms (including ourselves) that had implemented VoIP solutions. What I found particularly interesting was that the greatest benefits discovered were generally from areas that they had not planned for or initially expected. In most instances, the productivity improvements gained were from the new features or applications that the VoIP equipment supported and less from displacing traditional voice telephony applications or equipment.

They all said that they had to improve their LAN, and sometimes WAN, infrastructure to reliably provide voice transport. We found this to be true within our own initial VoIP trials going back to early 1997. As a side benefit, our LAN is now faster and more reliable for the transport of our Internet, remote server access and our internal and remote consultant voice calls.

VoIP Regulatory Framework

Many corporations may not be aware of the upcoming CRTC VoIP application and the surrounding applications and pending decisions.

We believe that this filing is particularly important in that it is the first major regulatory application to consider VoIP technology within the Canadian regulatory environment. We also believe that it is critical to provide a supportive and fair framework, which encourages competition regardless of the network media, whether telecom, cable or wireless. We also strongly believe that it is important that innovative, advanced technology solutions such as VoIP not be hindered by cumbersome, archaic frameworks based on outdated technologies or regulatory measures.

The preliminary comments from the regulators and carriers about comparing VoIP long distance to the PSTN long distance are not realistic from a business person’s viewpoint.

For example, how am I as a business user of VoIP who only uses it within our local area network within our office LAN, or occasionally to send network-based voice mail message to a remote consultant supposed to monitor, manage or pay for the portions of the packets on my network that may be voice or long-distance related?

How will the carriers know what packets are voice versus email versus Video traffic, and how will they invoice me as a business customers? I don’t think that the carriers or regulators have thought through these types of questions, and yet they are proposing to regulate this emerging technology.

One of the benefits of IP-based technologies is the ubiquity of the network and its ability to transport packets disregarding media type….so will this goes out the window with the proposed VoIP regulations?

We believe that if the regulations are not properly conceived and implemented, they could hinder the deployment and advancement of VoIP technology in Canada, in addition, Canadian businesses (both customer and suppliers) could be prevented from being able to have the advanced VoIP applications and the associated benefits we have discovered from our own experience.

Roberta Fox is the founder of the Fox Group, a Markham, Ont.-based independent analyst and management consulting company specializing in telecommunications, networking and call centres. Visit them at www.foxgroup.ca or call at 905-294-2821.

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