Voice over IP received a cautious welcome from BT after the integration arm of the telecomms giant conducted one of the largest trials to date.
BT's trial involved 50 users and more than 10,000 calls using BT's corporate intranet between its research centre in Martlesham and its offices in London.
Alex Markham, of BT Syncordia Solutions, said perceptions that people could save money using VoIP were misplaced because, in practice, infrastructure replacement may be necessary and IP telephones, costing #200 to #300, would need to be purchased.
Markham explained that even with a state of the art Cisco based network with plenty of prioritisation and bandwidth to burn, users still complained about calls made between the IP network and the public switched phone network.
"At present, certainly in the UK, the cost savings and business benefits available do not warrant its implementation. We expect this to change, though, as dedicated VoIP applications become available," explained Markham.
He added that VoIP applications could include sharing spreadsheets and white boarding, a project Syncordia completed for an oil company using an ISDN based video link, but for which it would now consider using a VoIP based system.
Syncordia predicts corporates will seek to use Virtual Private Networks or existing intranets to offer VoIP. It also predicts that in the next six to 24 months, companies will seek competitive advantage from the use of IP PBXs and CTI, taking advantage of some of IP's flexibility and functionality.
Richard Wendland, a telecomms analyst at Durlacher Research, said IP telephony in the enterprise was still not very widespread. Durlacher's research shows that only 2,800 IP telephony gateway ports were shipped to enterprises last year and that the enterprise equipment market was worth $12m.
Corporate IP telephony vendors are offering businesses incentives to kickstart the fledgling market. Motorola has pledged to install a packet voice telephony service for internal calls, using IP or Frame Relay, within an hour at customer sites. If it's late, customers can keep the Infinity Access Vanguard 320 equipment - which would cost #1,200 - for free.
Siemens has put a fully functional version of its voice telephony over a Lan system on CD and is letting companies use the system free for 45 days.
For more stories see 3 February issue of 'Network News'
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