When will telecom gateways be extinct?
Within Aculab, we’re often discussing the general acceptance of VoIP and whether we’re any closer to the time when traditional TDM voice will disappear and ALL enterprise voice communications needs will be handled via IP connections rather than TDM E1 and T1 circuits.
One thing that is clear is that whilst we are in the midst of a large shift towards IP voice, the general use and acceptance of VoIP is still at a slower pace than we were predicting 1, 2, 5 and certainly 10 years ago. One analogy recently drawn in our discussions was with the continental drift. Plate tectonics theory states that whilst the actual speed is very slow, somewhere between the growth of a fingernail and the growth of human hair, it is relentless and unstoppable leading to the creation of new geographic features along its path, such as mountains and volcanoes – again an analogy we quite liked. Furthermore, with continental drift there is never one single source of energy or momentum, it is movement and change (or indeed growth, or 'progress') as a part of a whole.
Being right on the edge of the VoIP (or plate tectonics!) shift we’re all very aware of this movement but to the majority of people it remains an unseen level of detail that does not concern them.
But why the reluctance? Quality doesn’t get touted as the restricting factor any more. Sure, in the early days there were quality issues, and certainly calls across the public Internet wouldn’t reliably give the same quality as a dedicated PSTN line, but generally people are very happy with the compromise of that quality when taking into account the cost savings in the call. Availability doesn’t seem the reason either, most modern voice solutions use IP at its core, of both equipment and networks.
In today’s economic climate, the traditional method of moving to new technologies by ‘rip and replace’ seems to have outlived its day. For both financial and acceptability reasons, moving to new technology now means a slow, measured approach together with a well thought out solution to integrate existing legacy equipment – without losing any existing legacy functionality. Horror stories abound of where systems have been put in but then taken out due to, for example, the CEO of a company losing a particular feature which they, and perhaps only they, used across their corporate PBXs. Similarly the unavailability or poor quality of a VoIP connection when calling back into the office has forced companies to rethink their telecoms strategies.
It is sudden and rapid changes such as large earthquakes or supervolcanic events that change the global ecosystem forever, and provide the ability for scientists (or Systems Technicians) to differentiate between ineffable gradual change and see the milestones. Once these changes have happened, large scale changes take a while to happen again, so we will have to wait and see when the next big push towards VOIP happens, and the long lasting effect this has.
Gateways, however, are the crucial bridge between the old and new. They provide technological continuity in changing times. We will continue to provide this service with enterprise and telco-grade gateways to those who need them.