Amit Gaur, Head Products Enterprise Voice, Reliance Communications
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell's now-famous words had travelled successfully to the next room where Watson had been listening in, marking the birth of telephony. More than a century later, in 1995, telephony witnessed another path breaking innovation. An Israel-based company launched an application that used H.323 protocol to transmit voice using IP. That a six-year old company could do this would have come as a jolt to many telecom giants and researchers of the world, including maybe even Bell Laboratories with its USD 3 billion budget!
Since then, a lot of water has flown under the bridge. Almost every new development in the area of voice now involves data networks.
Much More than Two-Party Calls
In the Western markets, the main benefits of IP telephony are cost savings, improved productivity, increased innovation, and effective collaboration. The good news for enterprises in India is that most of these benefits are available to them too, albeit under slightly altered circumstances. In terms of both reach and infrastructure, India is largely ready to bring the benefits of IP voice to the doorsteps of enterprises. Reliance Communications, for instance, runs a nationwide Voice network purely to serve the IP voice requirements of enterprises.
Looking at IP Voice purely as a two-party telephone call alternative is missing the forest for the trees. Of course, plain vanilla voice – with HD quality often coming as a bonus – is a given in IP voice, but the biggest advantages it offers are that it prepares us for the changing needs of businesses and gets us wired up for tomorrow.
The Enterprise Nervous System
The workspace is gradually transitioning from a cluster of divided spaces into a flexible, fluid collaborative environment. This is particularly true for large campuses that are being designed or constructed afresh. In the near future, the IP network in an enterprise is likely to assume the role akin to that of the human nervous system (if it has not already) – a single network carrying data, voice, and video. Communications devices get plugged into this network as, when, and where needed – almost like limbs, just more flexible and modular – enabling people and machines to exchange information and collaborate on demand seamlessly.
Going from Interruptive to Interactive
An IP telephony system usually comes with a very rich suite of features, and users love it. With these features, the telephone sheds its interruptive character and becomes more interactive, molding its behavior in sync with the user's preferences, location, and engagements. Since the IP PBX – whether on-premise or hosted – is software-based, activating/deactivating and adding features is very simple. Similarly, configuration changes (adding, deleting, changing users) are usually just a matter of a few clicks.
Toward an IP-Centric World
Scalability of resources has probably never been more important for businesses. The world is seeing an increasing shift toward flexible, usage-based models. IP voice is perfectly suited to this dynamic world. SIP trunking, for instance, makes it very easy for enterprises with varying needs (say, a voice VAS operator) to scale up or down almost instantaneously based on needs. The convenience and cost advantage of this scalability cannot be matched by traditional systems. A framework like the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) virtually provides an unlimited session capability. The telecom industry in India is playing a defining role in bringing the advantages of IP voice to enterprises within the regulatory framework. The country's first IMS-powered enterprise SIP trunking service has already been launched by Reliance Communications. The unified IP infrastructure framework brings down overhead costs and simplifies business communications processes.
Two major agents are propelling communications technology into the future. One, the technology itself is becoming more intelligent. Two, much of the intelligence is moving from hardware to software. IP voice is a fine example of how these two agents have combined to lay the ground for efficient, collaborative, user-friendly, and futuristic workspaces.