July 20, 2004

VoIP Press: A Cacophony

It is fun to read some of the recent articles on VoIP in the popular press. Actually it is more fun to read some of the bloggers taking strong exception to one or the other story. But today I will stick with discussing only the news items. But it is time for these writers to become a bit analytical and balanced. Here are some examples:

1. BUSINESS FRONT LINE / NTT Comware sees big future for VoIP by Hiroshi Hirai / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer:

Imai said VoIP technologies have to be attuned to the mentality of Japanese, who are more concerned about the reliability of telecommunications services than Americans or Europeans.
"We Japanese tend to seek perfection. But Americans and Europeans think more pragmatically--they don't mind being temporarily cut off if the price is cheap," Imai said.
"It's almost impossible for VoIP to be as reliable as fixed-line telephone services. But when technologies reach a point that is acceptable to Japanese, VoIP will became highly popular," he added.

Now they tell us. All this time we are lead to believe that Yahoo!BB phone service is highly successful and that we have to follow their lead.

2. Security delays net calls by Rob O'Neill, July 20, 2004, Next:

"Telephones are a critical tool for members and senators," Ward says. "We wouldn't want to move over [to a VoIP system that was deployed a couple of years back] until we are absolutely sure it is reliable and secure."

Aren’t two years long enough to evaluate the system. How about letting us know at least a preliminary verdict? Even the “12 Angry Men” came to a conclusion a bit quicker than that.

3. For Tech’s Sake: VoIP: Reality amidst the hype by Gary Arlen, 07/16/04
Special to Washington Technology:

Yet after two years of the aforementioned hype, the Commerce Department is the only sizeable federal agency to acknowledge a widespread VoIP deployment.

Same two year trial and still not much progress has been made. Is there a reason?

Yet details remain scant about VoIP usage within federal or state/local agencies. For now, the paucity of data is being attributed to pilot deployments at intelligence agencies (handled by the vendors directly rather than through integrators). Such secure installations are typically secretive.
Although economic benefits – namely the lower cost-per-minute of long-distance connections – were once touted as a major driver for VoIP services, that factor is negligible in government sales, where existing networks such as FTS2000 have virtually eliminated price burdens.
Well, maybe not the biggest challenge. A recent Yankee Group study of VoIP adoption in commercial enterprises, found that 76 percent of prospective users are concerned that high upfront equipment costs offset cost savings, while 59 percent cite barriers such as installation, configuration and training costs. Another critical group – 49 percent – mention the “single point of failure” as a key impediment to their embrace of VoIP.

Wait a minute. Huge upfront costs, negligible cost savings, expensive/complicated deployment issues. Then why the continuing hype about VoIP?

4. Dialers' New Choice: An Internet Phone Revolution Is Upon Us, by Christopher Stern
Washington Post Staff Writer. Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page F01:

In an era in which consumers are used to picking television providers, cell phone providers, long-distance providers and Internet service providers, it seems anachronistic that there is still so little choice when it comes to basic local telephone service -- your dial tone.

Which is more correct to compare PSTN dial-tone service to VoIP or Broadband access? The latter is more appropriate. In that case, the consumers have more choice, but not as much as it has been made out to be.

Ashton sees other benefits of Herndon's new phone system as well. It is helping employees manage the deluge of e-mail and voice mail. Voice messages are encoded and sent to desktop computers as e-mails. When Herndon town employees want to listen to a message, they open the e-mail and the voice of the caller can be heard over the computer's speakers. They can forward the voice mail to a colleague with a mouse click. Away from the office, employees who dial in to their voice mail have the option of listening to a computer-generated voice read their regular e-mail.

Herndon does not have to deploy VoIP to get this feature. One more time, web-based voice mail and unified messaging can be and are being offered to PSTN subscribers as well.

5. VoIP Options Answer the Call by Rob Pegoraro, Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page F07:

And unlike land-line phone service, you can find real choice in the VoIP market. Companies act as though they actually need to win over their customers, competing to offer the best bundle of services for the lowest price.
You'll soon see cable or DSL modems with built-in VoIP circuitry, eliminating the confusing setup -- followed by VoIP phones that include their own WiFi receivers, so you can make calls using any available WiFi signal.

Once the access provider deploys this kind of box, all potential choice of VoIP service provider will go away. Be rest assured that box will be programmed to work with the carrier’s partner and no one else.

6. The price of VoIP's thriftiness by Ben Charny, Staff Writer, CNET News.com, Last modified: July 19, 2004, 4:00 AM PDT

Bottom line: If you're thinking of jumping on the VoIP bandwagon, be aware that your TiVo may not work, you may not be able to list your number in the phone book, and you may run into trouble if you try to call for help through the 911 system. All of these things remain problems, at least for the time being.

Enough bloggers and bulletin posts have jumped on this article. It has to be pointed out that this clip points out lack of research in many respects. The most serious one is regarding 911. A service provider (especially a carrier based one) can easily overcome this by restriction the service to one location (excepting for the power issue).

Posted by aswath at July 20, 2004 04:33 PM
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