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Issue of September 2004 

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Cisco wants enterprises to dial into IP

After the era of analog phones, exchanges and users around the world went digital. Now vendors like Cisco are talking about the benefits of pure IP phones and IP-PBX technology. But does it make sense for all enterprises to switch to IP telephony?

"We tell customers that they need to have a set of criteria to gauge if IP telephony makes sense for them," said Christian Hentschel, Director, Business Development Advanced Technologies, Asia Pacific, Cisco Systems. "We think IP telephony makes sense when the customer wants 20 percent of its employees to use IP telephony and 80 percent to use analog. You can make a mix between IP telephony and analog."

Cisco is offering an IP phone solution that can make calls through both the PSTN and corporate network. CUG regulations forbid the same phone to be used for IP & PSTN networks. "However there can be an exception for certain projects with special permission from BSNL/VSNL," said Hentschel.

According to Cisco India, there has been demand for IP telephony and IP-based call center solutions (IPCC). "Though this is mainly for specific market segments like ITES, overall I see requests coming in from the whole voice space," said Hentschel.

The other sectors that Cisco is looking at are government, and MNCs that use India as a hub. In Asia, Cisco is aggressively targeting the hospitality industry.

The major hindrance to wider adoption of IP phones in the enterprise is Cost--IP phones are roughly 25 percent more expensive then regular phones. A basic IP phone costs $100 or more depending on features and functionality. But Cisco is also offering software-based phones. With a wireless-enabled laptop and SoftPhone software (and Cisco Call Manager at the backend) enterprise users on the go can make and receive calls regardless of location.

— Brian Pereira

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