The backbones not ready for convergence
Although VoIP and video conferencing are evolving, their
quality and efficiency could be better. by Deepali Gupta and Vertika
Convergence is transporting voice, data, images and video
traffic over a single network.
Our network is built to support core banking, but the
point of going in for a VoIP solution is to dispense with other channels
The withdrawal of TRAI regulations that had hitherto curtailed
the use of IP telephony by enterprises resulted in a surge of deployments in
the past few months. Infrastructure Strategies (IS) 2005 shows that almost 65
percent of enterprises have deployed VoIP. The average deployment isnt
humongous; 64 percent of organisations have less than 50 VoIP users.
R N Ramanathan
DMD - IT, SBI
The BFSI, BPO and telecom segments are the largest users of
convergent technologies. 67 percent of respondents from the telecom sector have
VoIP, while 33 percent have video-conferencing facilities. 85 percent of respondents
in the BPO segment have VoIP. Penetration of video conferencing is low; VoIP
is a more flexible and lightweight technology (in terms of link utilisation).
That combined with the global nature of the clientele of BPO companies has worked
out in its favour.
|Not ready for convergence
Convergence is the best means
to fully utilise resources that are already in place. Shifting to an all-IP
network allows different services to be deployed at a lower cost. However,
IP telephony is not for everyone.
Convergent technologies are
useful if an organisation has excess bandwidth on its network. Setting
up a separate network or links just for VoIP isnt worth it.
IP Tela viable alternative
While grey areas remain, the interest in IP telephony suggests
that VoIP has got rid of its reputation of being unreliable. Adopters are now
beginning to consider it as a viable alternative to traditional telephony.
With the influx of broadband connectivity, the use of VoIP
among small and medium enterprises has surged. Resources tend to lie idle for
much of the day on the average network. There is a pressing need for convergence
so that common resources can be used for multiple tasks. VoIP helps enterprises
use the IP backbone they put in place for activities such as disaster recovery
during the day, and for data transmission after office hours, or in time slots
where utilisation is known to be low.
IP telephony is a technology that has the potential to transform the way enterprises
communicate and work. According to Rajiv Gerela, GM - Technology, Wipro, There
is a strong business case to be made out for VoIP.
Managers are looking at IP telephony to help them curb rising expenses, extend
the reach of their business, boost productivity and get returns on their investments
in infrastructure. IP-based solutions will enable companies to deploy essential
services such as video conferencing, collaboration and other value-added options.
For SMB ventures that are mostly involved with exports and foreign partners,
VoIP (ever since TRAI delicensed IP to PSTN calls for international calls) is
a great way to make long distance calls.
Although VoIP is beginning to make business sense for many organisations, convergence
itself is not a popular concept (29 percent of survey respondents that use convergence
technology use video conferencing, while 65 percent use VoIP).
Gerela has been using VoIP in his organisation on an experimental basis, and
500 workstations in his company are IP telephony ready. IP telephony has failed
to match his expectations. The quality of service is inconsistent. Voice
quality drops and even the service provider cannot explain why this happens.
Overall, I think that traditional telephony works out cheaper for me,
Apart from the initial cost, there are a few constraints to VoIP adoption. First
comes voice quality (QoS) which is a determining factor for the user. Many VoIP
network impairments that contribute to the overall call quality are delayed
arrival of packets, lost data and jitter.
Security is another hurdle. As VoIP traffic is just data on the network, all
security risks that affect data traffic are a concern for VoIP implementation.
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, spoofing, man in the middle attacks, and spamall
these network-based threats and nuisances affect VoIP.
Next comes lack of interoperabilityVoIP equipment from one vendor may
not necessarily work with that from another. Vendors are working on the problem.
S R Mallela
S R Mallela, CTO, AFL, explored VoIP as a possible communication
backbone. He found the cost of setting up a backbone to be unjustifiably high,
and his company uses Voice over Frame Relay (VoFR). Instead of working on layer
3 (IP), this works on layer 2. The channel sizes in VoFR are less than half
that of VoIP.
VoIP telephone terminal costs can go up to three or four times
the cost of traditional phones. IP telephones are expensive and the cost
of maintaining this equipment is high, says Mallela. So it may be cheaper
to call using VoIP, but the start-up costs are a huge deterrent. Mallela adds,
VoIP is expensive in terms of bandwidth utilisation, and it isnt
worth it for the voice quality that it provides.
The VoIP difference
What will differentiate enterprises planning to adopt VoIP is how well they
make use of communications to create business and that in turn would mean optimised
use of the technology. Most of the companies agree that the technology must
be deployed and assimilated correctly, or it falls short of expectations.
Organisations should check the following before any deployments:
- Where does this technology fit into the organisation?
- What kind of availability and QoS does it deliver
- Does it provide the correct access levels?
- Is the technology perceived as too complicated among
- Is it conducted in accordance with the business
Some organisations have deployed and benefited extensively form VoIP. 70 percent
of respondents from BFSI have VoIP deployments, while 30 percent have video
conferencing. Most are reasonably satisfied with the implementations, and may
take it to the next level in the coming year.
State Bank of India has one of the largest VoIP deployments, which are used
for internal communication. The banks primary aim when setting up its
IP telephony network was to support its core banking application. That process
is still on way, and in the mean time, R N Ramanathan, DMD - IT, SBI, and his
IT team use the available bandwidth to experiment with VoIP.
IP telephones are expensive
and the cost of maintaining this equipment is high
At present, SBI has about 4,500 IP terminals connecting locations
across the country. Our network is built to support core banking, but
the point of going in for a VoIP solution is to dispense with other channels
of communication, explains Ramanathan. SBI uses a mere 1 percent of its
IP infrastructure for the VoIP deployment. The bank has also linked up 221 locations
for video conferencing, but that is done over ISDN lines for the moment. Ramanathan
believes that even these will be done over IP in the long term.
- Invest in VoIP if you have many ISD calls,
and if internal communication requirements are high.
- Video conferencing is a great option for
large corporates and the education segment, because it can save travel
costs for executives and students.
- Consolidating multiple activities on a
common IP network will make the infrastructure more manageable, and
usage will be optimised.
- If you deploy VoIP or video conferencing,
ensure that sufficient bandwidth is allocated to it for good quality
Deeepali Gupta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vertika Yadav can be reached at email@example.com