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Study: IP telephony to go mainstream soon

More than 80 percent of those in the high tech industry believe IP telephony, or Net calling, will be widely used within five years, a new study shows.

More than 80 percent of those in the high tech industry believe IP telephony, or phone calls over the Internet, will be widely used within five years, a new study shows.

Of nearly 700 people surveyed, about 29 percent believe businesses and consumers will embrace voice-over IP within two years, while 54 percent said adoption will occur within three to five years.

IP telephony allows phone conversations over the Internet, intranets, or local area and wide area networks that use the TCP/IP protocol. Analysts have long predicted that IP telephony will make its way into the mainstream as it offers cheaper phone rates, and will likely lead to the convergence of voice, data, and video.

Carriers are counting on companies like Lucent Technologies, Cisco Systems, and Nortel Networks, among others, to bridge the reliability gap between current circuit-based voice systems and forthcoming IP-based voice equipment.

Thirteen percent said the technology would be widely adopted within six to nine years, while 4 percent expected telephony to catch on in 10 years or more, according to the report by market research firm Feldman Communications. The research firm polled chief executives, information systems managers, analysts, and journalists who cover voice-over IP technology.

Cheaper phone rates will be the primary result of an increased use of the technology, with businesses and consumers reaping the benefits.

But telecommunications carriers still need to build the infrastructure and improve voice quality, service quality, and features of IP telephony--such as Caller ID--before the market can really explode, said Paul Feldman, president of Feldman Communications.

"It won't happen overnight," he said.

The greatest barrier to using voice-over data network services is voice quality, the survey found. Some 61 percent of those surveyed worried that the quality of voice over IP networks would suffer, while 52 percent feared inferior quality of service. Some 27 percent felt special features, such as three-way calling, wouldn't be as reliable as regular phone service, the study showed.

Most of those polled--almost 65 percent of respondents--believe people will use IP telephony for phone calls, while 26.5 percent expected faxing to be one of the main uses of the technology. Nine percent of the respondents said people would use IP telephony for video services.