Everyone will be on VoIP in 5 years, says Asia Netcom

100 percent IP telephony in 5 years, says Asia Netcom

update In five years every organisation in the world will be running some of their telecommunications on an IP-based network, and under-developed nations are showing the rest of the world how to do it, according to Asia Netcom's president and chief operating officer, Bill Barney.

While Bill Barney originally told journalists at a press conference on Tuesday that -5 years from now everyone will be running everything from an IP-based network", an Asia Netcom spokesperson clarified the comment to ZDNet Australia today, saying that Barney was referring to the fact that every organisation would be using IP-based voice communications "in one way or the other".

Highlighting the convergence of voice and data in the communications sector, Barney told journalists at a press conference on Tuesday that his company has "bet the farm on IP-based technology" and that the technology is growing fastest at the moment in companies like Cisco and Microsoft that have thousands of small offices in geographically diverse locations, although it is also being implemented in many of the richest Fortune 500 firms.

Barney said that his company is currently spending most of its time on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products and is particularly interested in developing VoIP conferencing solutions. In addition, he talked about the increasing role that VoIP is playing in under-developed countries in which telecommunications sectors are still highly regulated. In countries where phone calls can cost up to 48c per minute, said Barney, organisations are naturally looking to VoIP to cut costs.

One surprising story the COO told related to being headhunted for the chief role in the new Iraqi Telecom. According to Barney, he was browsing through an interesting offer from a recruitment agency when he realised that the organisation in question was to provide services to all of Iraq. Barney refused the offer, but he does remember one thing: the carrier's new network was to be entirely IP-based.

Barney went on to comment further on the state of the telecommunications industry, saying: "I don't think I've ever seen the industry in so much flux. This [time period] is when the great companies will emerge". He also commented on the company's recent financial woes, saying that "we were very fortunate to be affected by the sickness earlier [than other carriers]" and that current woes in the industry are "caused by overcapacity and just too many telephone companies out there".

In the Asia-Pacific region, according to Barney, "the challenge is how to get your customers towards your network ... how do we break the bottleneck in the last mile?" He says that the long-term solution to bridging high-capacity infrastructure and customers will be based on wireless technology, although the bandwidth is not quite there yet for businesses as they require higher speeds than consumers.

The 48-month cyclical nature of the industry was also a problem, with carriers alternating between an oversupply of capacity and an undersupply, similar to the way that the RAM market works, but on a much longer time frame. Although this had been more of a problem previously, the fact that "no R&D money is being put into submarine networks" has slowed down the chaos, according to Barney.

However Deborah Homewood, Asia Netcom vice-president and head of sales for South Pacific Region and Strategic Markets, agreed with Barney that technical solutions were not the only profit-drivers in the telecommunications industry. According to Homewood, carriers need to "focus back on customers," and provide a "company that is easy to deal with". Barney said on this issue that "as companies become larger, they start to lose one-on-one customer service skills ... the little things that really matter".

It appears that Asia Netcom sees China (the company is wholly owned by the publicly owned China Netcom Group), India and the Middle East as growth opportunities in the medium-term future, although the company wants to be seen as "the Asian carrier", and "the Phillipines is one of the powerhouses of our business". Homewood said that there was "great interest in the aggregated voice area in the Middle East" and that she is surprised that Asia Netcom's competitors aren't operating there yet, as "there's definitely a hole there".

Asia Netcom currently has close to 30Gbps of international and intra-Asia Internet backbone capacity.