ComNet shines spotlight on voice over IP

By Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld |  Networking

"I think that what is happening is that the telecoms are not prepared," said Campbell, who put in 3Com's NBX 100 LAN telephony system to suit his company' s voice and data needs.

WorldCom officials said they realize that many enterprise customers have had to build in their own CPE (customer premise equipment) solutions to incorporate IP functionality. "As a network provider, we will be looking to provide ways to deliver solutions through the network to enterprise customers," said an executive who asked not to be named.

"But in almost every case, enterprises will still not be making the decision to migrate to IP lock, stock, and barrel. They will do it on a location basis," the executive said.

A director of marketing at Cisco's enterprise voice business unit, Bill Erdman, agreed, although he noted that VOIP-related sales are up across the board at the San Jose, Calif.-based company. "We find that [VOIP] starts when a company opens a branch or new office or when they are revamping the wiring in a building or doing a major overhaul of a LAN."

As more enterprises eye VOIP, they are doing so for different reasons. Early adopters honed in on telephony to bypass long-distance tolls or to ease maintenance by whittling multiple networks down to one.

But most companies now are turning to VOIP technology for advanced applications offered by converged networks, said Jim Burton, CEO of Commfusion, a St. Helena, Calif.-based research company specializing in data and voice convergence.

Sports Express' Campbell wanted to use telephony products so as to ramp up scattered call centers to handle electronic contact with its customers.

Meanwhile, at SunRay Gaming, a casino in Farmington, N.M., where Campbell also serves as IT director, the intent was to use VOIP to cut down the cost of rolling out phone systems between buildings on the casino site. "Now we don't have to pay the enormous cost associated with things like moving a phone extension," Campbell added.

Vendors lining up at ComNet to take advantage of thhe current zeal for VOIP include Omegon, a company debuting VOIP testing functions for its NetAlly diagnostic tool. Also, Polycom will show its first desktop IP phone, SoundPoint IP 500, now in a beta release but shipping in the second quarter of 2001.

Meanwhile, CommWorks, a subsidiary of 3Com, will be showcasing its CommWorks 4000 SoftSwitch, a software-based subscriber management and services platform, and its Total Control 2000 multiservice access platform.

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