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Call centers ramp up VoIP

Though adoption hasn't climbed as swiftly as predicted, the outlook for growth is still positive, report says.

Almost half of the call centers in North America will use voice over Internet Protocol systems by the end of next year, according to new research.

A report from the Yankee Group says that despite VoIP adoption lagging behind earlier predictions, the call center market is embracing the technology.

Forty-seven percent of call centers are expected to roll out VoIP by 2007, compared with just 17 percent in 2005.

The key reasons for using the new technology are to manage multiple call center sites cheaply and flexibly, and to be able to place agents anywhere, including at home.

The largest call centers--those with more than 500 seats--will see the greatest increase in VoIP adoption from now until the end of 2007, the analyst firm predicts.

Though VoIP for the enterprise has been much hyped in recent years, Yankee Group said adoption has not met its predictions.

"This lackluster performance of VoIP products and services in the enterprise--and more specifically in the contact center marketplace--indicates that much more than technology and end-user perception are involved in driving the market for VoIP applications to a higher level," the report said.

The biggest concerns for contact centers looking to roll out VoIP are costs, including fears of high upfront costs. Overall, respondents believed they would see savings of 6 percent to 15 percent from using the technology.

Other concerns include voice quality--a worry for 46 percent of the market--and security and reliability.

Call centers are looking to buy VoIP systems from telcommunications companies and telephony hardware and software vendors rather than system integrators and value-added resellers, the report said. And though data-networking vendors are still in the minority, they've made progress in capturing market share, the analyst firm said.

Sylvia Carr of reported from London.