Convergence: Unified Communications
Large organisations will adopt unified communications, which
is IP telephony, unified messaging, voice mail, Web conferencing and videoconferencing
all rolled into one. These solutions reduce intra-office and long-distance communication
costs. At the same time, they boost productivity by means of a range of applications
such as e-conferencing and collaboration, call accounting and billing, and of
course unified messaging, to mention a few. By Faiz Askari
done right, unified communications (UC) can reduce downtime thats implicit
in any interaction. Consider this: according to an AT&T study, more than
70 percent of business calls are placed on hold for an average of 45 to 60 seconds
each. The average executive spends 17 minutes each day on hold, and some 80
percent of phone calls end up in voice mail. UC curbs the wastage of time by
letting users reach the right person at the right time through their preferred
mode of contact. This goes way beyond slashing hold times or staying clear of
voice mail. It means organising information faster and getting that information
to the right person in a usable format when the recipient needs it most.
Dabinder Singh, Head, IT, Greenply Industries says, Through UC, costs
are significantly reduced. If there is an organisation having 40 to 50 locations
across the country, all their telephones will be treated as an intercom and
there will be a single Internet connection to link multiple offices. Basically,
there will be a single access point and the end-result will be an integrated
- Networks such as UMTS or WiMax to carry huge
payloads just about anywhere.
- Technologies such as packet switching, firewall/NAT
traversal and encryption.
- Bridging products to bridge analog and digital
telephony, and provide support for PSTN, ISDN, IP (H.323 and SIP) networks.
- Devices encompassing a wide variety of computers,
laptops, phones and PDAs.
- Standards such as SIP for call signalling, or
IMS to architecture a converged solution.
Sourav Roy, IT Infrastructure Manager, LG Electronics India says, A
single integrated network is easy to manage as there are no multiple tools or
network infrastructure to manage. In the long run it can be a great cost-saver
for organisations as they will have to deal with a single ISV rather than multiple
thats always been a business goal, and stand-alone tools that work towards
that end have long been available, leading applications vendors are now investing
in this space. By building UC into their software, they plan to embed voice,
IM, video and presence into the fabric of business applications, with little
change to the client desktop. Minimal change means lower cost and less resistance
from both end-users and the bean counters.
According to Ranajoy Punja, Vice-president, Business Development, Advanced Technology,
Cisco Systems India & Saarc, UC solutions offer migration at an organisations
preferred pace. By integrating with most major legacy PBXs and voice-mail systems,
as well as mission-critical business applications, most leading IP players empower
customers to migrate based on their business needs rather than on account of
Adds Kiran Bhagwanani, Vice-president, APAC Sales, HCL Comnet, High rates
of VoIP adoption, availability of advanced services such as unified messaging,
tele-presence and rich-media conferencing (RMC), along with the inherent benefit
of having application integration and ease of use, are the driving factors for
the growth of UC. Deployments of UC solutions help customers derive high levels
of efficiency from resources, be more productive, and reduce costs.
According to Yugal Sharma, Country Manager, India & Saarc, Polycom, UC
enables users to integrate some form of data conferencing using a companion
PC, integrated software, or attached electronic whiteboard to bring photos,
spreadsheets, drawings or text documents into a meeting. Video
streaming technology gives users the ability to hear or view a file in real-time
without downloading it first. Products today are equally adept at streaming
video from a live feed or from archived files on a server. Streaming is fast
becoming a highly effective way to sell, market, communicate or train employees
over a corporate LAN as well as the Internet, adds Sharma.
Notes Rajnish Gupta, Director of Marketing at Tadiran Telecom India, UC
is an area which has been and which will see a lot of activity in the near future.
With the advent of new technology and bigger and stronger backbones, UC requirements
will multiply manifold. There is a lot of work going on in this regard i.e.
convergence of technologies and end-user equipment. Theres more activity
from every side, be it voice equipment (PBX) manufacturers, cellular infrastructure
manufacturers or data equipment (LAN switches, routers) makers.
- Reduced cost of communication: Enterprises
can leverage IP telephony for voice communications in a CUG, and drive
down expenditure on communications.
- Improved employee productivity: Enhanced
applications such as unified messaging and call centre solutions enhance
- A single network saves on operational costs:
It is also easy to manage. UC solutions allow enterprises to invest
in a converged communication infrastructure that will deliver voice,
video and data communications to the enterprise desktop. In fact, the
use of IP-telephony to terminate voice traffic by enterprises is seen
to be the market with the maximum potential in the future.
- Integrated voice, video and Web collaboration:
Integrate all three into the same conference.
- Ad hoc conference service support: This
is true regardless of the communications media being used.
Many technologies on a single platter
Enterprises today are looking forward
to leading-edge technology, flexible conferences, lexible deployment,
common management suites, highly scalable solutions, secure VoIP conferencing,
embedded multipoint options and more in video conferencing solutions
India is one of the fastest growing UC markets in the Asia Pacific. Some technologies
which are already available in the Indian market are IP telephony, unified messaging,
video telephony, audio/Web/video conferencing, collaboration solutions, instant
messaging and customer contact services, all integrated with each other and
with the messaging and business applications.
Informs Punja, Some new technologies which are being
launched are presence- or location-based services using the SIP protocol, and
tele-presence, which is high-definition, life-size video conferencing integrated
with an IP telephony system. Enterprise mobility is another application which
is going to see a lot of action next year with the launch of clients for cellular
phones which provide all UC applications for a mobile workforce.
says, Enterprises today are looking forward to leading-edge technology,
flexible conferences, flexible deployment, common management suites, highly
scalable solutions, secure VoIP conferencing, embedded multipoint options and
more in video conferencing solutions. The system can be used for scheduled
or ad hoc meetings, and plays a crucial role in enhancing productivity. Access
to, and sharing of information, plays a vital role in corporate meetings as
we have them today. Video conferencing enables easy sharing of any type of information,
instantly arming the participants with the necessary and required knowledge.
This in the long run is extremely important for swift analysis and decision
making, bringing products to the market, and gaining an edge over competitors.
Comments Bhagwanani, RMC supports a mix of voice, video, Web and data,
with instant messaging capabilities and the ability to access systems from a
mix of touch points. End-users in an RMC environment can be a mix of PSTN, IP,
Web and video endpoints, and they all get a seamless experience with the system
providing a unique end-user experience irrespective of the mode of connectivity.
Tele-presence is another area which is expected to grow in a big way. We have
already seen a highly mobile workforce in India thanks to broadband and wireless
data access, so the next obvious step is tele-presence to complete the enterprise-class
Convergence in action
UCs potential is high in
India, and with better telecom infrastructure, high bandwidth connectivity
through MPLS, Metro Ethernet and broadband, and favourable regulations,
we will soon see enterprise adoption of UC
UC is an important part of the convergence of computers, telephones and television
into a single integrated information environment. Giving an overview of some
of the differentiating factors in UC, Punja states, UC includes IP telephony,
unified messaging, voice mail, customer contact and audio, Web and videoconferencing
Bhagwanani points out that while convergence is the differentiating factor,
some of the critical aspects that need to be kept in mind are quality of service
since most of the infrastructure is IP-based with the ability to interconnect
to other systems using standard protocols. Most of the solutions available today
have incorporated both these aspects, hence we will see a lot of UC deployments
where customers can re-use their existing investments in voice and video and
still avail of the latest converged services.
Convergence is part and parcel of UC. Some critical factors strengthening UCs
sales proposition are:
- Availability of bandwidth and the cost of the same coming
- Availability of various applications which enhance the
use of hardware and bandwidth.
- Dispersed teams use different technology to communicate,
and their need to communicate has acted as a catalyst for UC.
CIOs demand for UC
Issues such as security, reliability and ease of maintenance are critical in
the case of UC. The other major area of concern that an IT manager should look
into is the use of standard equipment i.e. equipment that conforms to standards
as opposed to equipment that uses proprietary standards.
IT managers want UC solutions that offer lower TCO and high RoI. Punja says,
Operating a converged enterprise network requires optimisation to guarantee
that all applications receive the service levels required to meet performance
expectations. Throwing bandwidth at the problem is not a solution.
Rather, adequate bandwidth provisioning is an important aspect of quality-of-service.
Lastly, inter-operability is also a concern while adopting UC solutions because
enterprises are increasingly adding value to existing servers or infrastructure
by running UC applications on top of existing infrastructure.
States Sharma, In terms of CIO priorities, there are several components
of UC to carefully look into. These include the voice and data network infrastructure,
handsets, end-points, enterprise audio, video and Web conferencing, and the
software and services for integration and collaboration.
A tough call
Even if the business office buys in [UC], choosing the right UC architecture
isnt going to be easy. Virtually every supplier targeting the enterprise
market with IP PBX, Web conferencing, IM or videoconferencing equipment offers
elements of an enterprise-grade UC solution. Competing vendors often partner
with one another, creating more choicesand more complexity for the beleaguered
IT department. Nor is the distinction between infrastructure and application
vendors clearly delineated. Presence, for example, is a critical component both
of the infrastructure and the application, and is provided by just about all
UC vendors. Application and infrastructure vendors also provide session-setup
and resource-location functions. However, the decision as to who will own these
core UC system capabilities isnt clear. For these reasons, businesses
must begin their evaluation of UC architectures at the endpoint. Integration
with a leading desktop supplier is critical if UC is to become a part of the
business process and enjoy widespread adoption.
Concludes Bhagwanani: UCs potential is high in India, and with better
telecom infrastructure, high bandwidth connectivity through MPLS, Metro Ethernet
and broadband, and favourable regulations, we will soon see enterprise adoption
of UC for their communication and productivity requirements.