Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
The global economy, the free agent nation, the life of the transient salesperson. All have their perks, but not when it comes to long-distance calling. Mobile phones don’t offer free international calls. Conference calls across the nation and overseas can last hours.
The introduction of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) into the commercial market two years ago, and now recently offered to the consumer market, seemed to counter the ever-increasing monthly phone bill.
For businesses, though, VoIP can sometimes be a hassle and an added expense, especially when placing phone calls overseas.
George Fahr, vice president of Digicorp Inc., a Milwaukee-based voice and data communication firm, views VoIP as just another way to handle a phone call.
"In some cases, VoIP has provided measurable business improvements, while in other situations, VoIP has been misrepresented, oversold or poorly installed, causing financial hardships and the disruption of operations for the purchasers," Fahr said.
Unlike many VoIP providers, Digicorp’s initial business was built on installing telephone systems, Fahr said.
Once a company implements a VoIP phone system, the company is no longer using a plain old telephone service (POTS). In fact, every phone call that is made to a non-VoIP destination is still going through the public switch like any other phone call. It is just arriving via the Internet, instead of directly from an individual’s phone, Fahr said.
Digicorp has found that the essence of VoIP, which would be that people can talk to each other another via the Internet, is a fantastic idea. However, Digicorp has capitalized on a way companies with multiple offices can talk over the Internet, computer-to-computer, instead of implementing a complete and costly VoIP system, Fahr said.
About 18 months ago, Digicorp launched a program in partnership with CrystalVoice Communications, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based software company that specializes in voice communications over the Internet.
CrystalVoice’s interoffice voice trunking (IVT) products allow quality voice communications via the Internet even on a low bandwidth, Fahr said. Digicorp immediately saw the value that technology could have to its clients with overseas offices, mobile sales people and high volumes of phone conversations.
The system that Digicorp can implement for companies using CrystalVoice’s products includes attaching an Internet protocol (IP) phone to an individual computer. The person can only call other individuals with the same setup, most likely a co-worker at a different location.
By contrast, VoIP systems would replace the entire phone system within a company with IP phones. With VoIP, businesses pay a monthly fee for the use of the technology, but whenever they want to make a call outside of their internal network, they are no longer talking over the Internet, Fahr said. When they dial the number they wish to call and it is to a mobile phone or to a traditional phone, the call is switched over to a traditional phone line, so that the call can be connected. Calls within the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico are most likely covered in the monthly VoIP fee, but companies often are still charged per minute for international calls.
"Companies in the U.S. are continually partnering with companies located in Asia because of the low cost of manufacturing, but the only low cost of communication is by using the Internet," Fahr said.
Xymox Technologies Inc., a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of membrane switches for electronics, needed a new communications solution.
"We have facilities in China and Vietnam and one issue we had was that we spent a lot of time on the phone," said Mike Zozakiewicz, information technology director for Xymox. "The phone bills were racking up because of conference calls, calling back and forth to the offices and with the cost of the sales managers’ home phones and cell phones."
Digicorp had already been working with Xymox for about eight years when Fahr informed Zozakiewicz of a possible solution. One year ago, Digicorp implemented a system of Internet protocol (IP) phones and nodes at computer workstations in Xymox’s Milwaukee, California, New Jersey, China and Vietnam offices, as well as its sales managers located all over the country, Zozakiewicz said.
By connecting computer to computer over a large network over the Internet, Xymox is able to communicate office-to-office for no extra charge.
"It is not anywhere-to-anywhere, because we are just using the Internet at this time," Fahr said. "You can’t call anywhere in China, you can call to the node where the software is sitting."
Based on Xymox’s call volume at the time of implementation alone, the company is saving between $4,000 and $5,000 per year, Zozakiewicz said. Because of Digicorp’s network and use of CrystalVoice IVT software, Xymox experienced a reduction in long-distance phone calls from overseas and was practically able to eliminate the stipend it was paying area sales managers for their house phones, Zozakiewicz said.
Xymox saw results within 18 months, Zozakiewicz said.
Part of the success was due to the level of quality, Zozakiewicz said.
"Digicorp found a partner in CrystalVoice which allows that quality of the connection to be maintained, even when there are poor lines and latency," Zozakiewicz said. "CrystalVoice has proprietary compression algorithms in its software that allows the quality to stay pretty high."
Digicorp hopes to bring the idea of simply adding voice capabilities to computers with an Internet connection to small and mid-sized companies that are in the same situation, Fahr said.
"We can make the smallest company that is opening an office in Southeast Asia, Europe or India have viable, cost-effective communication so that they can compete with the big guys," Fahr said.
There are still some kinks to work out. For instance, when a company is using the Internet for end-to-end communication, the company is subject to the availability of the Internet and some slower connections can get bogged down, Fahr said.
"There are points where if there is a vast amount of calling, it can be problematic, and a company is better served with a private network T1 connection or frame network," Fahr said.
Depending on how vast a company wants its network to be, implementation of the system can cost between $10,000 and $12,000, Fahr said. However, the return on investment comes within two years, and the savings on calls are immense, he said.
"The tools we use mitigate our philosophy of trying to find something that meets investment with quality," Fahr said.