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Is VoIP just a business staple or is it primed for mainstream adoption?

VoIP will eventually replace existing PSTN systems, but the change will be gradual.

Do you think that IP telephony will eventually replace all the old/existing PSTN systems or is VoIP just a business solution?
Yes. That's the easy and short answer.

Just like the telephone replaced the telegraph, VoIP will replace TDM-based voice. The circumstances are the same, and it's really a simple matter of evolution. The telegraph was very good at its intended purpose, and when telephony came along it was dismissed as a poor substitute. That changed as the technology improved, and once it become clear that the telephone was a better way to communicate, the telegraph quickly became obsolete. Not just because people preferred talking to tapping out Morse code, but because the telegraph is limited and could not adapt to deliver voice. As such, the PSTN was eventually developed and later perfected to provide the telephony service we enjoy today. The telegraph was a one-trick pony, and when it could not adapt it became extinct.

The same holds for VoIP. Again, the PSTN is very good for its intended purpose, but it is not very adaptive for providing all the other forms of communication we now take for granted. However, people still love to talk, and when all the engineering bugs are worked out, VoIP is technically superior to TDM. We're not quite there yet, but there is no debate that VoIP offers far more flexibility and better economics than TDM. It's simply a better way to provide telephony, and eventually all voice will be VoIP. That said, TDM will be with us for a long time - 10 years maybe - so the evolution process will be slow. The PSTN still performs very well and carriers have too much capital sunk into their legacy network to move away from it altogether yet. That day will certainly come though, and very few carriers are buying legacy network gear today.

In terms of the business market versus the consumer market, the outcome will be the same. IP telephony is a more complex proposition than home phone service, especially if the business uses a PBX. For this reason, the value proposition has taken longer to catch on with businesses, especially since most existing telephone systems work perfectly well and have many years of life ahead of them.

There often is no compelling reason to make a change, and it usually comes only when the business recognizes the limitations of both TDM and their existing phone system. The longer they stay with it, the further they risk falling behind their competition, and will typically be spurred to action when they understand that they can transition to VoIP gradually. There are many hybrid solutions that make it painless and risk-free to deploy IP telephony on a limited basis, allowing them to continue getting mileage out of their existing system, and getting the basic benefits out of VoIP at the same time.

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