Friday, December 22, 2006

B2B Telecommunications and IT Trends for 2007

We looked at consumer telecom trends in the first part of this editorial on telecommunications and IT trends that emerged or accelerated in 2006, and should pick up even more steam in 2007. Now let's take a look at what's likely in the business services arena.

Video isn't likely to be the near-term killer app for business the way it is for consumers, but it's definitely on the ascendancy. Two big applications are security cameras and video conferencing. Security cams seem pretty mundane, but with IP connectivity and motion sensing software they are quite affordable now for SMBs that don't have full time security staffs. Monitoring can be outsourced or handled remotely by management. Even small shop owners can easily keep an eye on what's going on after hours via the Internet. Software will send alerts and video capture to a designated cell phone in lieu of someone being glued to a monitor.

Video conferencing is becoming telepresence, with the introduction of the Cisco TelePresence system. Replacing the fuzzy TV screen at the front of the room and the jerky video that seems to be coming from outer space is Cisco's half-round conference table butted up against a wall of high definition video monitors. The HDTV resolution and full motion video gives the impression that the people on the screens are actually sitting on the other side of the round conference table. With adequate bandwidth, it's now possible to conduct meetings with remote sites and maintain the ability to sense body language as well as hear and see the participants. This might be the long awaited substitute for expensive, time consuming and sometimes annoying business travel, although without the employee perk of running up a business account while out of town.

Bandwidth consumption is on the rise at all businesses from small retailers to Fortune 500 enterprises. Some of the big drivers are a move to VoIP telephony, convergence of voice, data, and video to the LAN, regulatory driven needs to better archive and be able to recover company documents, Extranets that include vendors and customers, collaboration with outsourced teams, and the continuing move to interconnect home offices with branch offices, warehouses, and franchisees.

Fortunately this increasing demand for bandwidth is being met with falling prices by competitive service providers and a renewed wave of infrastructure building. T1, PRI, DS3, and OCx line prices have plunged since the great tech boom. TDM services are now complemented by MPLS networks and Carrier Ethernet from standard 10 Mbps through GigE and even 10GigE.

WiMAX WAN options are cuing up in the wings but aren't center stage yet. Deployment will begin in 2007, but will take a few years to build-out. As WiMAX becomes available, it may well replace WiFi for portable and mobile wireless access. The main competitor in the mobile arena is EVDO. Both Sprint and Verizon are rapidly upgrading to EVDO Rev A, which offers enough bandwidth for applications such as mobile video conferencing and VoIP telephony. It also provides the low Mbps bandwidth that's just right for Web browsing, email with document attachments, and file transfers. Aircards are now available for upgrading laptop computers. Upcoming smartphones from Sprint and Verizon will almost certainly incorporate Rev A broadband.

Just when we thought there was enough fiber under the oceans to handle a decade or two of international traffic growth, it looks like we've run out of spare capacity already. Verizon and Asian partners that include China, Taiwan and South Korea have a new network in the works called the Trans-Pacific Express. All that trade and outsourcing between the U.S. and Asian countries has pretty much sopped up existing capacity. The Express will have bandwidth in the Tbps range.

Trenched fiber is also increasing and it's likely we'll see more and more building hookups as bandwidth speeds increase. T1 over copper is still just the right size for smaller and some medium size businesses. Bonded T1 lines and multiple T1 PRI telephone trunks can bring a lot of capacity into a building regardless of location. Sometimes the higher demand needs such as server racks can be relocated to a colocation facility where access to bandwidth of nearly any amount is available at reasonable costs. WAN optimization tools can also improve network performance when on-site bandwidth is expensive or hard to come by.

It seems clear that the telecommunications slump that began the millennium has all but dissipated, but the next boom will have a different flavor. It will be IP driven and include much more mobile activity. How far down this road we get in 2007, remains to be seen.

Are your voice and data bandwidth needs increasing or are you curious about cost savings options that might be available at your business location? Our team of technical experts would like to be of help at your convenience for consultations and service quotations. Just let us know you are interested at T1 Rex.

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