The pace of users upgrading to converged networks is increasing. A survey of 602 businesses conducted by Coleman Parkes Research for BT has found that 37% of respondents moved to a converged network in the past 12 months.
The research showed that 43% of those asked were using their local area networks for voice calls, while 34% were sending voice traffic over their wide area network. The main driver for rolling out a converged network was lowering costs (57% of respondents), 47% said greater flexibility was an important factor.
The biggest barrier was uncertainty about cost benefits (28%). Phil Mottram, vice-president marketing and channel operations at BT, said part of the problem was that users have traditionally been given a return on investment model based on intangible benefits. He suggested users consider benefits that can be measured such as the reduction on network maintenance charges from a converged network and the savings arising from running a single network to multiple sites.
Part of the problem is assessing how much work is required to get the network voice-enabled. While most users believe their networks are ready for IP telephony, research from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has shown that many have not considered all aspects of running a converged network.
Tony Corlett, chairman of the TIA Convergence Forum, said, "People tend to support VLan and Power over Ethernet [protocols] but they need to look at all elements of the network together." In particular, he said, users should consider how the network will run with media gateways, Active Directory and Microsoft Exchange servers.
Corlett recommended that businesses look at running small converged networks for up to 25% of end-users and aim to provide the remainder with some of the functionality of the new network. He suggested users look at unified messaging and mobility to provide users on the non-converged network with some of the benefits of convergence.
For instance, applications can be developed with presence and awareness built in or combine voice and instant messaging services to speed up decision making within a team.