Michael Tessler is the co-founder, CEO and President of BroadSoft, specializing in advanced. carrier-grade communications systems. At Alcatel USA, Mr Tessler was Vice President of Engineering in the Celcore organization responsible for product development activities. Prior to Alcatel, Mr Tessler held numerous senior management roles at Nortel; he founded and led a services development business unit that helped local exchange carriers build and deploy advanced services on digital networks. Mr Tessler has two patents in the area of local switching, AIN and advanced call management services and was a recent winner in Ernst & Youngís Entrepreneur of the Year award programme. Michael Tessler received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
VoIP penetration in Latin America is still low, but probably not for long. Throughout the continent, although regulations and telecom monopolies impede growth in places, telecom players have been working to build their coverage. Broadband is growing by an estimated 87 per cent per year. It makes Skype-type services available to give users a taste of the services available from carrier-grade VoIP. Businesses, large and SME alike, attracted by reduced costs and advanced services will lead the shift to VoIP.
The latest global figures on Voice over IP, VoIP, adoption from research firm Infonetics show Latin America and the Caribbean significantly trailing Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America. An examination of the status of telecommunications in Latin America reveals that todayís low VoIP penetration is far from surprising. Many of the regionís telecom players have been engaged in mergers and acquisitions to build their footprint, some in specific countries and others across the region in general. Latin Americaís appetite for cheap phone calls - combined with spotty fixed-line coverage and unreliable infrastructure in some areas - has led to an expanding market for prepaid phone cards and cell phones. About 113 million mobile handsets are expected to be sold in 2009. Telecom monopolies are another factor impeding service provider VoIP deployments and adoption by consumers and enterprises in some countries. The demand for improved voice and communication services led by enterprises will likely alter Latin Americaís telecom landscape in the next few years. As broadband rollout in Latin America continues at a breakneck pace (87 per cent is the annual rate, according to Frost & Sullivan), end-users will be exposed to the more advanced features available through carrier-grade VoIP platforms. Large enterprises as well as small and medium enterprises, SMEs, in Latin America are now expecting competitive pricing and the same productivity-enhancing VoIP features used by their international counterparts. VoIP applications Several large and competitive service providers in Latin America have either launched VoIP services or plan to introduce a VoIP offering in the next year. These services can take many forms and the packages could include managed, bundled or mobile services. For large enterprises, a hosted VoIP solution offers the best collection of features and benefits. Often referred to as hosted PBX, hosted VoIP eliminates the need to dedicate IT resources to a PBX phone system. With hosted PBX, the service provider manages the phone service. For the enterprise, there are many advantages to choosing a managed VoIP service over on-site PBXs. Hosted PBX delivers the enhanced features and functionality of PBX and IP PBX systems without the associated costs. Enterprises get the call features they are used to, such as call forwarding and do not disturb, plus more advanced features. These advanced features can include auto attendant, integration with Microsoft Outlook for click-to-call dialling, and simultaneous ring (subscribers can have multiple phones ring simultaneously - including on mobile devices - when calls are received on the office number). Enterprises will also benefit from unified communications solutions, including voice and video conferencing and integrated email messaging, which allows users to retrieve voicemail messages from their email inboxes. Imagine an executive forwarding a voicemail through Outlook or another email client to an employee, then asking the employee to handle the call. Maintaining and upgrading PBXs is expensive. Hosted PBX removes the capital expenditure, CAPEX, and operating expenditure, OPEX, associated with premises-based phone systems. Additionally, the moves, adds and changes that give in-house administrators headaches go away. Web-based portals allow administrators to make changes, or simply submit requests to the service provider. In addition, a voice service built on a carrier-grade VoIP platform includes an end-user web portal or Outlook toolbar that allows individuals to customise their personal feature settings. Hosted PBX also offers the enterprise an inherent disaster recovery solution. If thereís a natural disaster, the service provider can redirect calls to an alternate location or employees can activate simultaneous ring or remote office features. This allows the enterprise to continue conducting business with customers and vendors. An example of a successful Hosted PBX VoIP service is Aptus, delivered by Centennial de Puerto Rico. The Aptus service appeals to both single- and multi-location businesses, such as Berrios, a major retailer with 35 locations throughout Puerto Rico. ìCentennialís Aptus hosted IP service is a compelling solution for businesses that want to add robust features and enhance productivity by keeping workers connected wherever they may be,î Centennialís Director of Product and Business Development, Edward Koerhuis, said recently. Hosted VoIP promises to open up competition in even the most restricted countries. For instance, in Mexico, where incumbent Telmex controls most of the last mile connections, as many as seven providers are either offering VoIP services or plan to offer the services, including Alestra, Marcetel, MCM and Red Uno. Not to be left behind, Telmex is providing second-line VoIP services with free calls between DSL users. All plan to target SMEs with VoIP offerings. In Argentina, enterprises will choose from VoIP services offered by both the major carrier, Telefonica de Argentina, and its scrappy competitor, IPLAN. Integrated access Hosted PBX is not a one-size-fits-all application. It is a preferred option for businesses that want to get rid of their premises-based system. However, Latin American SME owners expect investment in a key phone system to last as long as 20 years. In order to gain the advanced features and cost savings of VoIP while keeping their existing system, SMEs can go with IP or Session Initiation Protocol, SIP, trunking, also known as integrated access. IP or SIP trunking connects a businessís premises-based phone system to a VoIP platform through a broadband connection. Service providers that offer IP/SIP trunking usually bundle the VoIP service with broadband connectivity and data services - integrated access - along with discounted local and long-distance calling packages. Over time, the customer can migrate functionality from its legacy PBX or key system to the network. This evolution will save the SME in both the CAPEX and OPEX associated with upgrading boxes, and will prepare the customer to benefit from a fully hosted solution. Some of the more advanced integrated access VoIP solutions offer real advantages to SMEs. Businesses can get some of the same features available in a hosted solution, such as Outlook and web browser integration for click-to-call dialling and feature activation, and find me/follow me functions such as simultaneous ring. Integrated access also allows for bursting. Hereís how bursting works: flower shop could temporarily add phone lines to handle the Motherís Day rush without incurring service charges or having a technician visit the store. When the holiday is over, the normal capacity can be restored remotely by the service provider. From an administrative perspective, integrated access means multiple services from one provider, resulting in one bill. Combined with average savings of 20 to 30 per cent, the benefits of VoIP to SMEs are obvious compared to basic dial-tone service. Fixed-mobile convergence The holy grail of IP communications is fixed-mobile convergence, FMC. For Latin America, where it is common for business executives to have two mobile phones and an office line, FMC could upset the balance between fixed-line and mobile network operators. There are two types of FMC solutions commonly referred to with VoIP: dual-mode service, in which a special handset allows a call to move from a mobile network to WiFi; versus, a simplified VoIP offering that works anywhere and on any device. The overall lack of affordable dual-mode handsets and lack of availability of WiFi networks makes the latter solution more immediate and practical for Latin America. A carrier-grade FMC offering through a VoIP platform is available today. This solution allows end-users to use one number for all incoming and outgoing calls, regardless of the phone used. It unifies all personal services across all devices. For instance, an executive visiting a customer can call colleagues to get the answer to a question by dialling a four-digit extension from his or her mobile device. If the same executive is on a conference call in the office, but has to rush to a lunch meeting, the call can be seamlessly re-directed from a desk phone to a mobile handset without hanging up and continued from his or her automobile. Other advantages of this FMC offering include unified voicemail for all devices or add-ons such as remote office, which is ideal for mobile workers who spend most of their time away from the office, or employees who work from home. Remote office turns any device - mobile phone, home phone or PC-based soft phone - into the end-userís desk phone. The user appears to be in the office for both incoming and outgoing calls. These FMC solutions function independently of the mobile carrierís network, giving fixed-line operators an opportunity to extend their services by reaching to mobile devices. Conversely, there are new mobile solutions developed specifically so that mobile carriers can deliver VoIP services to businesses, allowing them, potentially, to steal coveted enterprise dollars away from fixed-line operators. These mobile-office services are being offered to small and home-based businesses by wireless carriers in Europe. This makes the more advanced VoIP solutions truly disruptive technology for which large enterprises and SMEs will increasingly clamour, resulting in changes in the telecom landscape in Latin America.