When thinking about Unified Communications (UC), there are several moving parts to consider. It’s easy to think about UC as a complete solution, but of course, the more applications you have, the more integration is required across the business. On the most basic level, UC must be compatible with your IT environment, including having sufficient bandwidth to support the applications. Flowing outward from the network core, UC must interwork with edge elements such as media gateways and session border controllers.
From there, UC needs to support all the functional endpoints. In smaller businesses, where there is one phone system, this is fairly straightforward. The task is more complex with larger enterprises that often have several PBX systems that have been carefully patched together over the years. Adding to the wired environment are mobile devices, which are now taking new forms, but bringing valuable utility to the workplace.
All of these elements pose challenges, but UC solutions are generally adaptive enough to address them. However, there is more in the overall equation to consider. These are all internal issues, and largely under IT’s control. Once you go outside the network environment, there is a fresh set of options, primarily around connectivity. Businesses generally rely on Time-division Multiplexing (TDM) for most or all of their wireline telephony service. We all know about the tradeoff here – Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) service is highly reliable with great quality, but is costly and inflexible. There is also the ongoing Opex burden for IT to manage separate networks for voice and data.
UC can function perfectly well where TDM is used, so long as there is some VoIP in the mix. Actually, UC could even work where there is no VoIP, but this would take telephony out of the picture. Since voice is central to the UC value proposition, this would be a pretty light UC deployment. Conversely, the more VoIP being used in the business – the greater the benefits of UC.
Just as most businesses utilize TDM to varying degrees, few businesses – especially enterprises – rely exclusively on VoIP. Over time, that will change, but the balance has been shifting to IP, especially among smaller businesses. One of the key drivers has been the adoption of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking, which really is tailor-made for UC. SIP trunking is less costly and more flexible than physical trunks (E1/T1), and more importantly, enables end-to-end IP connectivity. Most businesses are not in a position to make a wholesale conversion to SIP trunking, but even when used on a small scale, UC deployments become enhanced.
IT departments like SIP trunking because it helps reduce telecom costs. Not only does it minimize long distance charges, but it replaces costly physical trunks. Furthermore, being broadband-based, telecom spending can be based on actual usage rather than how many lines are in service. This is especially attractive for businesses with cyclical demand or intense busy seasons.
With this strong economic rationale, businesses don’t need to rely on the soft benefits of UC to justify using SIP trunking. UC alone would not likely carry enough weight to go this route, but with SIP trunking in place, UC’s value proposition becomes stronger. How so? In theory, VoIP quality is actually better than TDM, but reality has not proven this out. To optimize VoIP, you need end-to-end IP, and that’s what SIP trunking brings. With that in place, businesses can now support HD audio and video, both of which enrich the UC experience.
Just thinking about what this can mean for contact centers or sales presentations, it should be clear that SIP trunking is a great complement for UC.
What role has SIP played in your communication planning?