The voice choice

Factors to consider for Middle East network managers when migrating to a new IP telephony system

Tags: Al Futtaim TechnologiesAlcatel-LucentAvaya IncorporationInteractive Intelligence Inc (www.inin.com)eHosting DataFort
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The voice choice Branch offices are now being served by centralised PABXs, notes Al Futtaim’s Raghaven.
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By  Piers Ford Published  January 10, 2011

“Middle East businesses are witnessing the efficiency gain such technologies are providing the business communities with in the US and Europe, and want the same. Actually, they only need to look at India and China — once viewed as emerging regions in this arena — which now have a huge uptake rate in tune with, and in some cases overtaking, their Western counterparts.”

Roch Muraine, director of marketing MEA for Alcatel-Lucent’s enterprise business, says IP telephony deployments don’t necessarily have to result in a complete overhaul of the operations. “It depends on the quality of the LAN infrastructure,” he says. “At minimum, it will require an audit and maybe a review of some architectural part of the network, but the beauty is that LAN is fully standardised so you are not obliged to go back to your existing supplier if you find them expensive.”

IP vendors report booming cross-sector IP interest, with healthcare, education, hospitality and financial services leading the way in implementation. “Oil and gas customers are attracted to the collaborative environment enabled by the technology, because it gives them a way to bring together such geographically dispersed teams,” says Miguel El-Khoury, director, integrated networking and site services at IT solutions provider Gulf Business Machines.

El-Khoury also says healthcare organisations see IP telephony as a way to bring smart services to patients and enable doctors to collaborate on surgery remotely, without having to travel. These remain relatively cutting-edge deployments and much still depends on the ability of service providers (SPs) to deliver IP telephony in flexible formats — something that Cisco, in particular, has focused on.

“SPs are running at full speed to add new services to their portfolio,” says Wael Abdulal, collaboration manager at Cisco UAE. “Together with multiple SPs in the Middle East, we launched hosted unified communications, hosted contact centre and hosted telepresence. We are also running at full speed to enable SPs to add more services like managed digital sign, public/private telepresence and local Exchange in the Middle East. One important thing to highlight is the benefit we can bring to SPs as we can enable them to provide on-premise, software-as-a service or hybrid options.”

Service portfolios on this scale can help to convey the notion that as just another easily delivered service, IP telephony doesn’t impose additional strain on the existing data infrastructure — something that isn’t always the case, and which network managers should always consider.

“When putting voice on the network, you need to assess the network and it isn’t always necessary to upgrade, provided you have the bandwidth, security measures and quality of service to run voice, video and other applications,” comments Abdulal.
He suggests that a few seconds’ delay when receiving an e-mail might be “affordable” — but would be unacceptable when it comes to real-time communications. However, Allan Scott from BT’s global product marketing operation, which works with large customers and service providers in the region, warns against making assumptions that voice won’t have a significant impact on data-based productivity.

“The mistake some organisations make is to just rely on the network’s class of service being enabled,” he explains. “That could mean that data is slowed down to give voice priority — and in fact, every second that an agent in a call centre has to wait for their screen to refresh is costing the company money. The call goes out that the server is playing up. But it’s probably happening because someone has dumped voice on the network!” he adds.

A reputable supplier will take the approach advocated by vendors like Avaya. Mohammed Areff, managing director for the Gulf and Pakistan, says it is important to recognise that IP telephony does have dependencies on the underlying data infrastructure and WAN links, for example.

“To ensure the success of our communications deployments, we do provide our customers with a network audit that gives them an insight into the readiness of their network for real-time communications,” reveals Areff. “That audit tells us where we need to fill the gaps in terms of data. Our portfolio of data comes in to fill those gaps in terms of reliability, efficiency and scalability,” he says.

At the end of the day though, a new IP infrastructure is irrelevant if organisations don’t spend time educating their employees how to use it. “It is not just about LAN switches and telephony systems,” says Alcatel-Lucent’s Muraine. “It is about human behaviour in a business environment. Change must always go with training and management adaptability. The user has to be able to benefit from the technology.”

2961 days ago
Serjios EL-Hage

It is not only about technologies or trends or vendors it is simply about the SIs that make it all happen. All points presented are probable cause for concern as no clients testimony was presented which by far is the most important and the final judge of which best suits their needs but one fact remains unequivocally true and valid no one size fits all.

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