Alcatel pans current voice-over-IP services

Suzanna Kerridge, Paris correspondent

Suzanna Kerridge, Paris correspondent

European corporates are reluctant to embark on voice-over-IP (VoIP) projects because they lack faith in the reliability of the technology, according to Roger Hockaday, senior director of Internetworking at Alcatel. He said: "There is a classic nervousness from customers about reliability. They're used to data network outages but voice customers cannot accept that. We are trying to prove to them that they can do it and it is reliable by offering proof from independent lab tests but until a vendor can point to 12 or 100 examples which are in and working then it is not a mainstream technology." Hockaday said although convergence was being marketed and sold effectively to vendors, he predicted that true convergence will not be broadly accepted until the end of the year or the beginning of 2001. "It's not good just having a couple of users who say they use it," he added. Martin Brampton, analyst at Bloor Research, shared his concerns. He told silicon.com: "Data networks are still well short of 100 per cent availability, but voice networks are pretty much close to 100 per cent availability. Consequently, many companies are right not to make the decision to downgrade their systems by choosing VoIP." However, Alan Wilson, senior manager of Internet telephony solutions at Nortel, was quick to defend the technology, throwing the problem back into the laps of IT managers. "Convergence is a high-growth service and quality should not be an issue for voice-over-IP. High quality and availability are just technical problems and there is no reason why it should not as work as well as voice over a fixed line if engineered properly. Attitudes are changing to VoIP, and enterprises are a lot less worried now than they were a year ago," he said. Wilson said the problem runs deeper than just a lack of reliability and claimed the real problem is a lack of support from the channel to market. He said: "The problem might be resolved if integrators like EDS get together with the vendors and believe that they can successfully do VOIP, but until there is a proof of concept then it will be an uphill struggle to sell it to the corporates."