IP telephony key to converged voice and data systems in the Middle East

IP Telephony will drive ‘business to business’ and ‘business to consumer’ relationships in the future according to Cisco Systems Middle East.

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By  Peter Conmy Published  August 5, 2000

IP Telephony will drive ‘business to business’ and ‘business to consumer’ relationships in the future according to Cisco Systems Middle East.

Industry representatives talk of the convergence of voice and data as the most exciting trend in networking over the last few years and Cisco believes it will provide greater quality of service.

Now the technology is moving out of the laboratory and into people’s homes and businesses. According to Sam Alkharrat, Systems engineering manager at Cisco, by merging voice and data networks companies can deploy sophisticated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and e-business systems that dramatically improve online shopping for customers.

“Surveys have shown that the vast majority of online shoppers abandon their ‘virtual trolleys’ before reaching the check-out. They do so because e-business technology is frequently not customer friendly.

"The technology we are demonstrating at Computer Telephony 2000 allows e-commerce sites to merge their call centres (with telephone operators) with their online computer systems, ensuring that customers are dealt with promptly and by the correct person, every time,” said Alkharrat at the Computer Telephony 2000 Conference in Dubai, May 28-30.

“The application of converged voice/data technology has other benefits: cost savings on telephone infrastructure and on communications bills. New features such as call forwarding, conferencing or voice mail can be added to the phone system by installing software, rather than having to buy extremely expensive hardware upgrades.”

“This year’s Computer Telephony 2000 Conference could not come at a better time. Converged voice and data systems are now being deployed in growing numbers in the Middle East region, as businesses here look for ways to increase their competitiveness, cut costs, and, most importantly, manage their relationships with their customers better,” says Alkharrat.

Red Tape

Despite his enthusiasm, though, there is still a great deal of red tape to overcome in the region before IP Telephony can be legally launched into the public network.

It is not illegal to use IP Telephony within Internal company networks but companies are not allowed to switch it externally and break out into the public network.

The majority of telecommunications revenue in Arab countries comes from long distance calls. IP Telephony allows international calls to be made at local rates, as is the case with electronic data such as e-mails.

The convergence of voice and data means that international telephone calls made through packet-switched networks will also be subjected only to local call rates.

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