What inspired you to write the book VoIP and Unified Communication: Internet Telephony and the Future Phone Network?


There are two motivators for my books. First, to be sure I understand the new technology, in this case SIP, by researching it and writing about it. As Francis Bacon is quoted, “Writing maketh an exact man.” That is, you need to understand something very well in order to explain it clearly. Second, I like to think that my version of the technology will be more understandable than average and help others in the industry.


How are VoIP phone systems and UC defining the future of telecommunications?


VoIP and UC bring some new features to phone systems, but the number pales in comparison to the hundreds of features built into digital PBXs. The big difference is how packet-based communications integrate with business data processing and procedures. Examples abound: click-to-talk from a web page; messages converted between voice and text to fit the immediate need; calls placed from tablets and PCs over Wi-Fi, cable, or mobile connections;  location-based communications services.


What should businesses look for when looking to purchase and activate toll free numbers?


After geographical coverage of the targeted territory, I’d recommend a close examination of call sound quality, service availability (uptime), and quality of experience metrics like post-dial delay. I’d look for voice mail, and check the sound quality there separately as the recording may be done with more compression. Cost is always an issue, but not the most important unless far out of line.


How has the increasing globalization of business impacted telecommunications?


International calls have always been relatively expensive, some time enormously so. In the last few years the very high charges for cellular roaming outside of a caller’s home country created enough outrage to get them reduced. Like domestic long distance now being included in the base monthly charge, the roaming fees for international calls have been eliminated by one carrier. Globalization will flatten the network, leading to postalized charges for mobile phone services.


What advice would you give to businesses looking to integrate VoIP and UC into their telecommunications strategy?


For long-time users of PBXs and key systems I would warn against expecting huge cost saving by converting to VoIP. Running a call server in-house entails costs for server hardware, IP phones, and administration. Buying a hosted service can eliminate capital costs but the recurring charges will be higher. And then there’s the network — the LAN may need an upgrade to provide priority for voice packets, power over Ethernet to the IP phones, and more bandwidth to the telephone service provider. 


What emerging trend in telecommunications should businesses keep their eyes on?


Emerging technologies like webRTC and others offer a different model for voice and video communications that are not based on traditional telephone company services. New methods allow direct connections between end points without the aid of a “carrier” or “telco.” However, what’s missing so far (and something to watch for) is a broad-based ability to locate, for example, webRTC end points. Without a directory service you may not know if someone you want to call is reachable via SIP, webRTC, or another method. I expect an entrepreneur to step into this space before long.


About the Author:


William A. Flanagan is President of Flanagan Consulting (www.flanagan-consulting.com), a firm of communications consultants in Chantilly, VA, near Washington, D.C. The firm works in converged networking for voice, data, and video to provide analysis of enterprise WANs, carrier networks, and network architectures. They have experience with procurement-related documentation for Federal agencies. Flanagan also assists equipment vendors to define product feature sets and market positioning. As an expert witness he supports legal professionals in preparing for litigation over technical issues. He is a physicist by training, an experienced speaker at conferences and seminars, and the author of dozens of articles and six books on networking — his latest is VoIP and Unified Communications (Wiley). Since mid-2002 he has edited and published the ViewsLetter (WWW.viewsletter.com), an occasional email currently focused on VoIP.