There is a new mode of communications transportation arriving at transit agencies. It offers cost savings, ready deployment of next-generation contact center solutions and enables information-richer interactions.
This method is voice over Internet protocol or (VoIP or IP), defined by Newton?s Telecom Dictionary as phone calls transmitted over data networks, which can be the public Internet, internal corporate networks or managed networks by communications carriers. The ?Internet protocol,? or IP, is a catchall term for describing protocols and technology that enable such calls to be encoded as data and routed as such from origins to destinations.
Richard ?Zippy? Grigonis is executive editor, Internet Telephony, a trade publication covering VoIP, and is author of The Computer Telephony Encyclopedia and the Dictionary of IP Communications. He contrasts IP with the traditional public service telephone network (PSTN), which relies on time-division-multiplex (TDM) communications technology.
IP breaks continuous voice into many packets that are transmitted independently to a destination and then reassembled. E-mail and Web chat is handled in a similar fashion. In contrast, PSTN/TDM is a continuous connection over an open circuit between two points. The connection remains open, occupying bandwidth, even if there are pauses in conversations.
IP can therefore piggyback onto existing data networks including to the CAT 5 data outlets provided to computer-equipped workstations. Existing PSTN networks can be seamlessly and affordably migrated to IP if organizations have hybrid IP-PSTN or IP-capable PSTN switches.
As IP is data, it does face security threats when being transported over the public Internet. Yet it can be readily guarded against these intrusions like data is by using virtual private networks (VPNs). VPNs provide protection through authentication, encryption and tunneling, the latter being encapsulating the encrypted data/IP packets for secure transmission.
?Packet-switched networks are ?connectionless? and therefore long pauses do not consume bandwidth, which makes them cheaper than PSTN for voice and data,? explains Grigonis. ?Voice is simply treated as another form of packetized data. Packetization enables the same data ?pipe? to be used efficiently among multiple users of various applications, of which voice is just one.?
Transit agency benefits
VoIP supplies several key benefits:
Reduced trunking, calling and server costs: IP calls, because it is data and treated as such, is much less expensive per call than those transported by PSTN. It also eliminates long distance charges on calls to and from regional facilities.
IP greatly simplifies and reduces the cost of networking multiple contact centers in different locations through having the single data pipe. Agencies need only one set of contact center management applications for their organization, tapped by these locations.
Ease and inexpense of configuration: As IP uses the same computer CAT 5 cabling as computers, agencies can reconfigure voice as well as data networks themselves. That avoids having separate phone networks, and paying for phone companies to change them around and support them.
Enabling unified communications (UC): Unified communications is the centralization of contacts: voice, e-mail, SMS, even fax, on a single software platform, enabling employees to easily receive or make contacts regardless of channel. UC can deliver a voice call to a user?s PC, automatically forward the call to voice mail, and can prompt a caller to leave a voice message. UC also permits better communications management capabilities, such as tracking callers and called parties and whether the calls and contacts are picked up or ended up in voicemail.
Growing array of competitive suppliers: Demand is increasing for IP telephony; research firm Pike and Fischer forecasts that more than 5 million U.S. businesses will have this mode by the end of 2010. This growing market is attracting a widening range of vendors. Some of them offer hybrid IP-PSTN equipment while others specialize in pure-play IP telephony. The solutions available can be designed for small offices while others can support large contact centers.