In a recent column, The Problem With VoIP Phones , PC Magazine’s resident ‘technopinionist’ John Dvorak has his way with VoIP. He points to the quality of service issues that still exist, and that one solution is the traditional “throw-bandwidth-at-it-and-it’ll-work” approach. I have no argument with Dvorak on this point: With a T1’s worth of bandwidth you can pretty much guarantee good quality voice. And you can keep the squirrels at bay.
He writes, “…the idea that VoIP is going to push aside land lines any time soon is wishful thinking.”
“Any time soon…”
Dvorak isn’t saying that VoIP will never happen: he couches his statement with the phrase “any time soon.” Again, it’s a difficult premise to argue. He's right. For now.
Dvorak’s comments are geared to consumer VoIP, that segment of the market that’s getting all the headlines lately courtesy of Vonage, AT&T, etc… And while there are still some technological kinks to be worked out, you can’t argue with the fact that people are signing up for VoIP services at a breakneck pace.
My only problem, and this probably stems from my role as a proponent of this industry, is the dismissive nature with which mainstream folks — magazine columnists and laypeople alike — treat our nascent industry. I know I should just accept the fact that we as a group are relatively young, and maybe the old-timers simply want us to go to bed, so they can continue their partying.
“Shoo Kid! You bother me!”
But it’s difficult to sit quietly in the corner when we have such a successful story to tell. For a young industry, we’ve already made some pretty heady strides across the landscape.
Service providers clearly see the need to switch out old circuit-switching gear for newer packet-based technology. It lowers the cost of transport and increases the ease of creating and deploying new revenue-generating applications.
Enterprises are increasingly seeing the benefits of IP-based PBXs. They understand the value of productivity increasing applications based on VoIP and presence technology, and the ability to link far-flung remote offices and traveling employees. And as these systems continue to evolve, there is no stopping the transition taking place in enterprises across the U.S.
So it’s back to consumer VoIP. And here, I again find it hard to argue too much with John Dvorak when he states, “the day when all calls are free is still a long way off.”
And yet, there it is again.
“A long way off…”
Exactly how long a way is ‘a long way?’
I’m frustrated by such dismissals that mask the fact that VoIP is steadily getting entrenched out there in the real world. The day is coming when the total minutes of voice carried over IP will outstrip the total minutes of voice traffic over traditional circuit-switched lines. (And frankly, few outside of our industry will either notice or even care when that day comes.)
People tend to forget that the VoIP revolution is more of an evolution, based on lower costs, increased choices for consumers, and the promise of services that will make our lives more productive. VoIP is simply a better, more efficient, less expensive way to transport calls, and oh, by the way, since it’s IP you have that ever-present applications promise.
When people tell us, “Go to bed… Drink your milk… Eat your vegetables,” we need to nod politely and go about our business of building an industry. And one day, when no one’s paying attention, we’ll reach that magic place “a long way off.” As teenagers who become adults, so too will plain old telephony morph into Internet telephony.
I'm sure some old-guard PSTN supporter will shoot me an acid-tinged response, but it's impossible to deny Internet telephony it's eventual ascendance. The Kids are alright. We're growing up. We're coming. Accept it.
Oh by the way, the youngsters are having a kegger on the beach! Actually we're having a trade show in Miami, but you probably already knew that. For more info on the upcoming Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO, please go here.