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VoIP: What about ROI?

Voice over IP (VoIP) is hardly a new technology. It's been around since 1995, when VocalTel Communications came up with the idea of passing voice in form of packets over data networks. Since then geeks, home users as well as enterprises have hopped on to this platform to cut down substantially on call costs. Besides the usual cost factor, VoIP offers other inherent technology benefits. It is innately superior to PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network)—a technology used by existing telephone networks. Additionally, it allows an enterprise to roll out value-added services over the same network without any significant investment or effort.

In India the scenario has been quite different. VoIP has failed to take off in a big way due to government policies framed to protect the interests of state-run BSNL and VSNL. VoIP use is restricted to a closed loop within an enterprise, say over a leased line or a Frame Relay network. Now, with the government committed to opening NLD/ILD (National Long Distance/International Long Distance) telecom sectors to private players and legalizing IP telephony by April 2002, VoIP vendors expect this technology to catch on in a big way.

Taking the jump
But will Indian enterprises move their voice traffic to VoIP once it is legalized? And who will be the likely converts—Enterprises, SMEs—given the high costs involved in setting and maintaining a converged network? Will the switch to VoIP be justified in the wake of falling costs of long-distance calls?

To get some answers for this month's cover story, we talked to key industry veterans, analysts and vendors. Most of the people we interviewed in due course for this story agreed on one thing: VoIP if implemented between various locations within and outside an enterprise would translate into significant cost-savings under existing long-distance telephony tariff rates.

What about ROI?
But will VoIP networks continue to provide the same ROI? This question is quite pertinent with private telecom players getting into long-distance telephony and the possibility of a further tariff cut by BSNL and VSNL looming on the horizon. In future, the success of VoIP may depend, not on just the low call costs factor, but on the value-adds enterprises or service providers can dole out over converged networks.

In addition to this, we also cover the technology aspects of VoIP, everything that you wanted to know about the protocols, converged networks or other implementation and QoS-related issues. The concrete technology facts may help you evaluate whether a VoIP solution is the right remedy to your organization's ever inflated telephone bill, and also to help you assess whether your existing data network can cope with the heavy voice traffic.

Sandeep Ajgaonkar, Assistant Editor

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