Enterprise voice quality concerns will not deter transition to all IP-based network by end of decade, says AT&T official

AT&T asks FCC for trial transitions from legacy circuit-switched networks to IP-based networks
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LAS VEGAS-- Enterprise concern with voice quality of IP will be overcome, paving the way for the transition to an all IP-network by the end of the decade, predicted Hank Hultquist, vice president of regulatory affairs at AT&T.

Concern about voice quality has been one of the factors deterring enterprises from moving to SIP trunking, even though one-third of nearly 300 enterprises surveyed by Webtorials have deployed SIP trunking. Enterprises that have a lot of interaction with customers over the phone are particularly concerned about the quality of VoIP.

Voice quality is a "perceived obstacle," Hultquist told FierceEnterpriseCommunications. "I think that perception will change quickly because of the introduction of voice over IP on the mobile side… which will evolve pretty quickly to high-definition voice. High-definition voice has a much wider range of sound, and the voice quality is going to be substantially better than what people have had before."

"When HD voice over LTE takes off, going forward voice over IP in the enterprise will get much better than the traditional switched voice experience. When that happens, the perceived obstacle will vanish," he added.

Last November, AT&T filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling for trials of IP-based networks as the first step toward this transition.

"AT&T asks the commission to consider conducting, for select wire centers chosen by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) that elect to participate, trial runs of the transition to next-generation services, including the retirement of time-division multiplexed (TDM) facilities and offerings and their replacement with IP-based alternatives," the carrier wrote in the petition.

"These trials will help the commission understand the technological and policy dimensions of the TDM-to-IP transition and, in the process, identify the regulatory reforms needed to promote consumer interests and preserve private incentives to upgrade America's broadband infrastructure," the petition added.

During a session at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Hultquist told attendees that the transition to an all IP-based network needs to happen because the legacy network is in decline and equipment is hard to find.

"The telephone network we all grew up with is now an obsolete platform… that will not be sustainable for the indefinite future. No one is making this network technology any more. It will become increasingly difficult to find spare parts for it. And it is becoming more and more difficult to find trained technicians and engineers to work on it," Hultquist explained.

"This is a very practical problem. How do we retire this legacy network technology and move into this all-IP world?" he added.

Not everyone, however, is on board with AT&T's plan. The Broadband Coalition, for one, argues that AT&T's petition is an effort by the carrier to maintain its dominant position.

AT&T's FCC petition "is a re-run of a tired ploy to leverage the company's dominance," the Coalition said in a statement at the time of petition's filing with the FCC. "AT&T only invests in order to respond to competition, and competition is made possible by the very pro-competitive policies that AT&T seeks to eliminate," 

For more:
- check out the AT&T petition
- read AT&T's blog on the topic
- see the Broadband Coalition's statement

Special report: SIP trunking migration: Enterprise opportunities and challenges

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