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New products are aimed at cost-conscious alternative to separate data and voice networks.
Cisco Systems debuted five new and six enhanced IP-telephony products designed to improve communication internally and within call centers. The call-processing and infrastructure products are part of Cisco's growing portfolio of voice applications that run on a converged voice, video, and data network. Such networks can be less costly to install and maintain than dual networks, making them an attractive option in these more cost-conscious days.
Among the new products is the VG248 analog phone gateway and Cisco Conference Connection, server-based software that lets users schedule and access meetings when using a Cisco IP phone. Information about a meeting, including conference ID numbers, is stored on the server and is shown on the phone's display at the touch of a button, says Hank Lambert, a Cisco marketing director.
Hitting one key to access a conference is not the killer app that will have the masses flocking to adopt IP telephony, Lambert admits, but a combination of all little applications, such as Conference Connection, will go a long way to improve knowledge-worker communication across all networks.
Chemical maker H.B. Fuller Co. is using the VG248 analog phone gateway as part of an effort to improve communications in its customer-service call center and in its offices across the globe. Fuller has seen cost savings in long-distance expenses by using a data network to supply voice, says Kevin Wetzel, manager of Fuller's global network services. The company plans to have the IP infrastructure installed in 30 of its 105 offices by the end of May and in its customer call center by December.
Because call centers have become integral to many large businesses, IP telephony is popping up on the radar screen of network managers, says Jon Arnold of Frost & Sullivan. "IP apps are friendly to call centers, because they will cut down on long-distance expenses and enable you to have call-center agents operate anywhere," he says. Arnold adds that having the ability to distribute call agents regionally across time zones and have 24-hour customer support is a compelling argument for IP telephony.
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