Given the continuing and explosive growth of Voice over IP technology and solutions for both business and home use, it's no wonder that pundits once again predict that 2005 will be a banner year for VoIP (as shown, for example, in the San Jose Mercury News technology predictions for 2005). With prices for VoIP solutions generally lower than the same level of service for conventional POTS lines, it's no wonder that more and more consumers from the business world are switching to same, and likewise for SOHO and home users as well.
In its 2005 prognostications, the Mercury News estimates that the number of domestic VoIP subscribers will grow from about 700,000 in 2004 to as much as 2 million by the end of 2005. If anything, I think the 2005 number is low, and that the real number could be more than double that amount. If you factor in the rest of the world—particularly Europe and the more developed Pacific Rim countires—the total could be as high as 10 million by the end of this year.
That said, such fiercely glowing predictions mean that those enterprises that aren't already using (or at least, piloting) VoIP implementations should start digging into this field immediately. Because the potential for savings is good, and VoIP implementations often lead to more streamlined infrastructures—and don't forget, if you already own and operate your own switches, you can map to IP on the outbound side of the switch instead of on your local networks, at least in the short term—such investigations almost always also lead to "conversion experiences." For an interesting take on this whole phenomenon, enterprise readers will find Stephanie Carhee's book The Road to IP Telephony: How Cisco Systems Migrated from PBX to IP Telephony (Cisco Press, 2004, ISBN: 1-58720-088-0) fascinating reading as a "super case study" of what's involved in making the switch.
There's another phenomenon that's also helping VoIP along, and represents a form of parallel growth. That's the increasing adoption of cellular phones. In fact, many businesses and consumers have decided to let cell phones provide backup links to VoIP, and are dropping conventional POTS service completely. The pricing for both kinds of service (and more attractive long distance and access options) certainly help to explain why this is the case, in terms of basic and advanced services provided, charges assessed, and perceived price/performance ratios.
On all fronts, based on recent advances in wireless VoIP access, powerful network access devices that integrate VoIP connections with conventional Internet links and services, and ever-cheaper equipment and service offerings, it's entirely reasonable to see 2005 as another big year for VoIP technology purchases, deployments, and use. Those telecomm companies that don't yet have a VoIP offering in their mix had best start working on some, or face a grim and cheerless future. But for VoIP, it's once again time to pull out those shades!
Ed Tittel is a regular contributor to numerous TechTarget Web sites, and the author of over 100 books on a wide range of computing subjects from markup languages to information security. He's also a contributing editor for Certification Magazine, and edits Que Publising's Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series of cert prep books. E-mail Ed at email@example.com.