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Panel Debates Future of IP Telephony

October 25, 2005

A panel comprised of eight top VoIP industry leaders convened Tuesday at the IT Conference and Expo to discuss the future of IP telephony.

Not surprisingly, several panelists were hesitant to say that VoIP, at least from a business perspective, has arrived.

"We have to find a way to make it a worthwhile enterprise," said Ditech Communications Charlan Aras, adding that the industry was trying too hard to benchmark what we have with the PSTN.

Acculab’s David Duffet said that things were pretty close on the telecommunications network side. "But in terms of customers, I think that is less clear."

"As an industry, we need to move to the next question: what does [VoIP] do for me in terms of running a business?" said Sphere’s Todd Landry.

Responding to a question regarding what will drive the demand for VoIP, the panelists were again in agreement that the industry must move away from marketing cheap phone calls.

For example, Quintum’s Chuck Rutledge said that telling a dentist was less likely to see the real benefits of VoIP if he is just told that he can save 10 percent on his phone bill. Rutledge added that if the same dentist is told that he can have a system for a 24 hour, seven days a week patient schedule that will book him 10 more appointments per month, then that is "something to get behind."

A member of the audience asked the hot potato question of what the VoIP industry would look like if "Google took over the Internet."

Panelists were cautious in responding, with several stating that they respect Google, but that IP telephony would suffer if any one company took control of Internet access.

One panelist, however, was optimistic.

"Having Google involved with VoIP is . . . exciting," said Raymond Pennotti. "The competitive environment is substantially more open. I do think companies that own 80 percent of anything can be an impediment."

MCI’s Chris Kimm noted that Google’s alleged takeover of the Internet reminded him of the predictions several years ago that that Netscape would control the Web after its IPO.

The most entertaining answer came from Duffet, who commented that "you can make a lot of friends very quickly" if Google combines it "I Feel Lucky" button with a voice application.

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