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Soap Box: The Convergence Ship Has Sailed

Has the convergence of voice and data come and gone? The answer is yes. The sad reality is many interconnects did not view convergence as an opportunity to dramatically increase revenues. These traditional phone system providers closed their eyes and pretended the shift from TdM to convergence never occurred. They did not change their business models, train or certify their employees, or adopt VoIP solutions. Instead, they chose to ignore new technology in an industry where change is endless. The technology curve has passed them by. For many, its too late.

Forward-looking interconnects, such as the members of Technology Assurance Group LLC (TAG), a national organization of converged technology VARs, are capitalizing upon the demise of these companies. They immediately realized the value of convergence and the opportunities it would bring to increase their profitability and substantially enhance their competitive advantage. About four years ago, TAG members began spending time, money and energy on this pursuit, including industry certifications, such as Convergence Technology Training (CTT), Convergence Technologies Professional (CTP) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). This transformation in skill sets also has been matched by a change in their internal and external identities eliminating words like telephone or phone from their companies names to broaden perception of their solutions in the minds of their employees and customers. By doing so, these providers stayed on top of the technology curve and ensured their places at the convergence table.

There are thousands upon thousands of companies with legacy PBX and key phone systems that are ready to be replaced or upgraded to convergence technologies. The numbers are astronomical and not unlike what weve seen with the tidal wave of HdTVs replacing traditional TV sets. A 2007 Market Review and Forecast Report by the Telecommunications Industry Association states that more U.S. businesses are using communication systems based on IP technology. The adoption of IP-based converged enterprise network equipment has surged during the past two years as leases of legacy equipment have expired. In a 2007 report, TIA goes on to say that IP/converged systems are expected to overtake traditional enterprise systems by 2009.

Convergence has forced telecom to become an application riding on the LAN. Thats all it is now, and whoever manages a companys LAN will manage their telecom. Progressive manufacturers have created a new generation of equipment that looks and acts like data. Those that have not made the transition are struggling to meet the needs of customers and their dealer networks. They are losing these dealers to product lines that reflect the shift to data.

The laggards that only provide TdMbased systems have little to offer their customers today let alone in the future. All they have to look forward to is being acquired at valuations far lower than they once were by companies that boarded the convergence ship when it first came to port. These buyers offer their acquired customers a vast array of gear and network-based solutions, such as VoIP, unified communications, SIP trunking and MPLS-based VPNs.

Change creates opportunity for those that take advantage of it. Since TAG members are on the top of the curve, they are better prepared to adapt to the next phase of technology that is currently upon us fixed mobile convergence. TAG members are beginning to sell mobile and fixed wireless networks and dual-mode devices that are making fixed-mobile convergence in the office and in the WAN possible today and preparing for the 4G networks (e.g., WiMAX) of the future. This is a most exciting time in our industry and it will be fun to watch those providers and manufacturers that remain at the forefront of change.

Dale Stein is co-founder of Technology Assurance Group LLC (TAG), a national organization of independently owned business communications companies that aims to increase its members sales and profits through education, and to ease their introduction of new technology to the marketplace by leveraging their combined intellects and purchasing power. He is a member of the PHONE+/Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board. For more information, visit www.tagnational.com.

Links

Technology Assurance Group www.tagnational.com
Cisco Systems Inc. www.cisco.com
Telecommunications Industry Association www.tiaonline.org


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