Interoperability affects booming VoIP marketplace

By Betsy Yocom, Network World |  Networking

As noted before, a 100-or-fewer line system is the typical size deployed in 90 percent of enterprise applications. The 50/50 mix of phones is more theoretical. IP PBX configurations often can't be compared one for one with classical PBXs. For example, stations such as soft phones (software on PCs with a microphone) don't exist in the classical PBX environment. In the IP PBX world, there tends to be more than one station per employee (typically an IP phone and a soft phone, both of which are IP PBX stations). There is seldom more than one station per employee with classical PBXs.

The average per-channel price for voice-over-IP systems (including PSTN/central office replacement switches) was $571. This represents a fairly wide range of prices from a low of $100 per channel (for RAD Data Communications' IPmux-4) to a high of $1,550 per port on Memotec's CX800 system. As it turned out, the median price (around $500) among all voice-over-IP systems included in this analysis virtually matched the average price.

The average per-station price of an IP PBX is $514. This is based on an averaging of 13 systems, ranging from a low per-port price of $331 with Vertical Networks' InstantOffice to a high of about $790 on Alcatel's OmniPCX. It was noted that PBX topologies can vary significantly, especially with so many different station options.

It is noteworthy that more than half of the vendors didn't provide detailed or configuration pricing. Many vendors -- particularly those at the high-capacity end of the market -- don't want to go public with pricing, citing the old line: "It's heavily configuration-dependent." Translation: prices are heavily discounted to major accounts, so the vendors don't want to reveal prices.

Trend no. 4: Peaceful coexistence in the standards arena?

In 1999 many vendors -- speaking mostly off the record -- thought the voice-over-IP standards arena was in a state of utter chaos and would remain so for at least several more years.

At issue was the fact that the most widely embraced standard at that time -- the ITU-T's H.323 umbrella standard -- was far too complex to implement efficiently or interoperably. Originally designed as an end-to-end communications standard for videoconferencing over packet networks, H.323 was retrofitted for voice-over-IP applications. The result was a standard that defines far more functionality than is necessary for most voice-over-IP environments.

H.323 also allows for many options in implementing it, which means vendors interpret the standard in many ways. While flexibility is typically a good thing, it can be problematic where interoperability is concerned.

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