I don't know exactly what the future holds or what phones are going to look like in a few years' time but I am pretty certain that in the near future more and more phone conversations are going to go over the internet. Desk phone systems, mobiles and soft phones are all using the internet more and more. |
A Brief Background to Hosted Telephony
Hosted telephony has been around for ages, since the 1960's in fact. For many years it was run over ordinary phone lines and this type of system is known as Centrex. Some of you may have heard of BT's Featureline version of Centrex which is still being used today. Featureline or Centrex is a phone system housed centrally back at the exchange that you can access using special phones connected to it over ordinary telephone lines. Compared to today's internet phone systems it's a little clunky but it still works well enough.
Hosted telephony over the internet on the other hand has had a difficult birth but has grown up and works really well now. Some people call it a Cloud service which indeed it is. Its origins go back to the early 1970's but it took until around 2004 before this type of telephony became a credible service. With the advent of faster and more reliable broadband in the last few years it's now become a low cost and reliable service that is easily made available to domestic and business users alike.
I love Hosted Telephony
"There were around 155 million subscribers to internet based telephony in 2013"
I have been involved with Hosted Telephony for around 10 years and I think it's a brilliant service. I thought it was a fantastic concept the first time I was introduced to it. The trouble in the early days was that it didn't work very well and the broadband available just wasn't up to it. I have to say there were some very painful moments in the early days and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) based telephony was pretty flaky. VoIP soon gathered a bad reputation amongst the early pioneers such that you would hear "oh yes, VoIP, the business down the road had that put in but it was rubbish and they had to take it back out again, I'm not touching it".
I remember the unreliable early days of mobile telephony and my first analogue mobile phone. It's often the same whenever any new service or product comes out the early pioneers take the hits.
The Good News
Hosted Telephony over the internet has come of age.
The good news is that VoIP based Hosted Telephony is so much better now. Services are reliable, quality is high, systems are flexible and it's simple to set up. So much so that most providers can send you pre-configured phones that you can plug into your network like any other device and they will just work out of the box. Some networks need a few adjustments but most don't.
With emerging high definition audio the quality of calls is becoming much better than anything we have used before.
In some countries this type of telephony is set to be the dominant service in the near future. Take up in the UK is increasing with over 4 million subscribers in 2013 and it's likely that this figure has exceeded 5 million by now. Much of the main BT trunking of UK calls is now over internet services so it doesn't make a great deal of difference any more whether you use traditional telephone lines or not.
But I Still Don't Quite Get It, What Actually Is Hosted Telephony Over The Internet?
To explain more clearly...
Up to the last few years most businesses would go out and buy a phone system which they would install in their premises and attach phone lines and phone extensions to. A business would then have to maintain the system or more likely pay a telecommunications company to do it. When they wanted to change something they often had to get an engineer to do it. Capital expenditure was relatively high and they would have to get a new system every so many years as technology moved on and as manufactures stop supporting older systems. This cycle would usually run over 5 to 10 years.
Most domestic users wouldn't dream of owning a phone system. Instead they would usually have a phone line and phone that lets them access some of the services you get on a phone system such as voice mail or call redirection.
Hosted telephony is a phone system but one that is held in a computer server farm somewhere and maintained by the company that supplies the service to you. All you or your business needs to do is buy the appropriate phones with the service and that's it. If a phone goes wrong you can just get another one, change a few settings and off you go, as if nothing happened. You can much more easily control the phone and your phone system account from a web browser or plug-in widget... from anywhere. It's like many other apps we use these days. Maybe this sounds too simple but that's how it is nowadays and it works.
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