Cisco wants VoIP market share

By Douglas F. Gray, IDG News Service |  Networking

It might not be today or tomorrow, but Voice-over Internet Protocol

(VoIP) will be the next technology to take over the desk in your office,

according to Mike Volpi, senior vice president and chief strategy officer

for Cisco Systems Inc.

Cisco already has made close to $1 billion in acquisitions related to

VoIP to strengthen its position in the market, and has 1,000 engineers

working on VoIP technology, so it's probably a good job the company is

confident about the technology's future. "We firmly believe that this is the

time to take market share," Volpi said, addressing members of the press here

at the company's headquarters.

VoIP technology allows users to send voice calls as data is packets

across the Internet or a corporate intranet, rather than using

circuit-switched networks employed by traditional carriers. Advantages

include the ability to pull information such as stock quotes directly from

the Web to an IP phone, or to screen voicemail in the same way that a user

might screen a list of e-mail messages.

"Most people that look at VoIP think in terms of cheap minutes," Volpi

said. "That market is interesting, yet it's relatively small," he added. A

decline in the sale of legacy phone equipment combined with growing momentum

behind VoIP has led Cisco to conclude that the technology is working its way

into mainstream corporate America.

"Companies are now rolling out full VoIP systems instead of just test

systems," he said. Of course, one of those companies is Cisco itself, which

runs approximately 16,000 IP-based phones. But the company said it has

gained 850 new VoIP customers in the first quarter of this year alone, with

eight of those companies installing in excess of 2,000 phones each.

Although Volpi admitted that Cisco isn't sure what would continue to

drive the technology, he did offer a few ideas, such as the appeal of

unified messaging, and the potential for IP phones to provide higher quality

voice calls under the right network conditions. Also attractive may be the

ability to easily transfer a user's calling preferences and phone settings

to any IP-based phone.

"What you can do with the phone is what drives the decision at the end of

the day, not whether it runs over IP or not," he said.

Although VoIP products still make up a single digit percentage of Cisco's

business, the market for VoIP phones and equipment has seen 100 percent

quarter-on-quarter growth, while sales of traditional PBX (private branch

exchange) equipment has dropped 16 percent, Volpi said, citing research from

Phillips Infotech.

"The reason for us to be in the business first is to make sure the

company has a market share to start with," Volpi said.

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