Telephony 3.0 – What is It?

Image your business with no telephones on the desk top. No large PBX to maintain if you have digital phones, no PBX configuration changes due to office moves. If you have Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the switches in the closets that provide Power over Ethernet (POE) would be eliminated. Yet your business could still enjoy on-demand video conferencing, the productivity of unified voicemail/email box and only have to pay for one client device, all without the cost of infrastructure and personnel to support it. How far off into the future is this scenario… 3 years, 5 years? No, it’s here now.

Let me take a moment and provide a bit of history. Analog and later digital wireline has been around for many years, starting with Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 and his creation of the telephone. Wireline PBX telephony is Telephony 1.0; the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) that has been in use for over 100 years. There have been enhancements to the technology, but no true breakthroughs until VoIP, also known also as IP Telephony, was created in the late 1990s.

Before VoIP, companies had separate voice and data networks and the cost of supporting both those networks. VoIP enables a company to use the data network for voice, giving voice calls priority so the calls are clear as those on traditional PBX. (FYI, voice is time sensitive where data, such as web pages are not). VoIP is about 20% less expensive to deploy and 20% less to operate.

There is a new paradigm in how voice and data communications will be provided to users in the corporate enterprise. Employees are more mobile than ever and it is more difficult provide the support and capabilities they need to work effectively. Telecom managers need to provide the latest capabilities while at the same time cutting costs in voice communications. Telephony 3.0 does this.

Today, there are two technologies that are making this future possible. The first has been around for 10 years, but has never deployed. The second, which is more recent, is a breakthrough that is simple in concept and practice, yet will have an earthshaking effect on telephony and business.

The first, which goes by different names depending on the carrier, is a method to route cellular calls over a company’s telephony network and thus eliminate international roaming. In the case of traditional PBXs, which use standard voice circuits to route calls through the Public Switched Telephony Network (PSTN); the corporate entity would tie its PBXs together into one network to route calls and in the case where VoIP it deploayed, the company would use its data network to send cellular calls.

Below is an example of how routing cellular calls over the corporate telephony network would transpire and eliminate international roaming charges.

Service provider Verizon calls this technology/service Mobile Voice System (MVS), which has been developed in conjunction with Research in Motion (RIMM), the makers of the ubiquitous Blackberry. We’ll use the example of an executive who is based in Chicago and flies to Paris, (corporate headquarters) for a week of meetings. The executive will have his/her cell phone on the entire week, and will receive a large phone bill from a week’s worth of roaming charges as well as call.

With Verizon’s MVS product, a call from his/her mobile phone from Paris to Chicago would be routed to a company server in Paris, running the MVS software and the server would forward the call to the company’s PBX in Paris, which would then route the call over the networked PBXs to Chicago, where is comes out as a local call. No international roaming charges. The only charge is the local minutes from the cell phone calling plan. The cost to deploy such as solution would be thousands of dollars but is has the potential to save a company millions.

The second technology will arguably have a bigger impact than Verizon’s MVS. Extenet Systems, based in Lisle, Illinois, has patented an antenna system the utilizes the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, commonly known as HVAC, to provide Radio Frequency (RF) signal throughout a building. This technology is known as Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS). Before this invention, concrete and metal HVAC ducts were inhibitors to providing a good RF signal and why it was so difficult to provide clear signals in downtown high-rises and why calls dropped so often.

What Extenet Systems has done is no less turn a negative into a positive. By using the duct work of a building, the RF signal can be provided to every office, every location in a building where there is HVAC. This means clean, crisp calls anywhere in the building and with the ability to make and receive high quality calls there is no need for a landline phone for companies that are using cell phones extensively.

For companies that utilize both of these technologies and have not deployed IP Telephony (VoIP) there would not only be huge operational savings, but capital expenditures savings as well. Let’s use the example of an international company (ABC) that has 10,000 employees and wants to deploy VoIP. ABC would spend $ 200 per phone times 10,000 employees or $ 2 million, just for the phone handsets that sit on the desk. Half the cost of deploying VoIP is the cost of the handsets.

In addition, the VoIP phones need power, which will be provided by Power over Ethernet (POE) switches. A PoE switch with 48 ports (each phone needs a port) would mean a 10,000 person company would need to buy 209 switches (10,000 divided by 48 ports = 208.33) at a cost of about $ 6000 each. The total cost for the POE switches comes to $ 1.25 million. So ABC would need to spend $ 3.25 million just to replace the digital handset they have today.

In addition, there may be additional network upgrades that would be necessary to support time sensitive applications like VoIP. The $ 3.25 million cost of the handset replacement would be eliminated by the deployment of the two technologies identified in this article.

What is the down side?

Your company would be dependent on the service provider to provide the necessary capacity and redundancy to ensure there is sufficient capacity and reliability to meet service level agreements. However, the technology to determine the necessary capacity has been around for many years so that would not be an issue. In addition, service providers are deploying fiber to their cell sites to make sure there is adequate bandwidth from the cell phone to the central office to provide services such as Multimedia Message Service (MMS), which is images, audio, and video. Detailed, tight, service level agreements would resolve the issue of high reliability.

The antenna companies and service providers are working with Real-Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) to deploy this technology in multi-tenant buildings. If a company owns its buildings and wants to deploy the DASs, it is simply a matter of working with Extenet Systems and a Service Providers.

If the technology provides such great cost savings, why haven’t I heard much about it?

With any change that fundamental is nature; it takes time for the corporate mindset to make the paradigm shift. In the case of MVS and DAS, it is not an issue of technology as it is an acceptance that the desktop phone is no longer necessary and is just an added expense.