A recent Yankee Group study indicated that 25 percent of the 10 to 14 percent of SMBs that plan to upgrade or replace phone systems this year will migrate to Internet protocol telephony (IPT). That's not an overwhelmingly huge figure, but it points to a definite trend. Myths about poor voice quality have almost disappeared, according to a report by the Aberdeen Group, though entrepreneurs should still scrutinize this aspect of an IPT system. Advantages over the old way include network integration, call forwarding to cellphones or home phones, advanced call management features and savings on long distance.
This voice and data convergence approach makes sense for entrepreneurs who can make extensive use of the advanced applications. Businesses that make lots of international calls will realize the greatest long-distance savings. An IPT system is not really the sort of thing you can pick up at Office Depot and install yourself, so expect to bring a consultant and/or service provider on board.
Plug It In
When is a plug more than just a plug? When it doubles as your high-speed Internet connection. You may end up buying business broadband from your local electric company. By providing broadband access through the existing power grid, Power Line Communications (PLC) could soon go head-to-head with established services like DSL and cable. PLC's potential speeds are comparable. Since the standard electricity lines PLC uses are already in place, it solves the "last mile" problem that has prevented cable and DSL from reaching some areas. Growing businesses located in rural areas that lack broadband access would be naturals for adopting PLC, if and when it becomes available to them.
PLC trials and feasibility studies by power utility companies have only fairly recently gotten underway in the United States. PLC access network solutions provider Main.net-Power Line Communications (www.powerline-plc.com) is currently testing its technology in Virginia. It's hard to determine when PLC might make it out and about, but it does have the support of the FCC, which sees healthy broadband competition. Early indications show that PLC pricing could undercut DSL and cable costs. For more information, visit the Power Line Communications Association online at www.plca.net and news site Powerline World (www.ipcf.org).