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A new voice Featured

9:38am EDT July 22, 2002

Business in the 21st century is moving at an incredible pace, and that speed is increasing. Businesses, however, can only operate as fast as the technology they employ.

For small- and mid-sized businesses, finding technology that fits their business strategy can be difficult. In the telecom marketplace, words like digital and analog, and acronyms like DSL, T-1 and ISDN sometimes make a simple search for new technology solutions sound like walking down a circus midway.

Business decision-makers must sort through all the information, find out which technologies best fit their business needs and make decisions that will enable their companies to thrive. Voice-over-DSL (VoDSL) is one such technology.

The basics

VoDSL is an innovative way to use a DSL line. It takes a normal DSL line and splits it into separate voice and data channels. Utilizing VoDSL, businesses can access up to 24 voice lines with value-added services including high-speed Internet access -- giving them enhanced services at a cost savings.

Because small businesses tend to be a more cost-conscious customer group, many are ideal candidates for VoDSL, which bundles local, long distance and data services across a single access line and saves money. In fact, International Data Corporation (IDC), a research analyst group, has observed a trend among small businesses noting growth in integrated voice and data.

Although it is a DSL service and requires the same prequalification as regular DSL services, VoDSL should not be confused with the voice capabilities of other DSL services. VoDSL packetizes the voice and data, and sends both over a single DSL line.

As an integrated solution for small- to mid-size businesses, VoDSL allows customers to operate voice and data over a single line. Since packet-based VoDSL voice lines only require bandwidth when a call is active, data services are enabled when calls are not active. In other words, when the customer picks up a telephone handset to make a call, the DSL data traffic is throttled back to provide the bandwidth required for the voice conversation.

Because of this dynamic bandwidth, VoDSL is an attractive and less expensive alternative to traditional phone lines.

The technology

Voice-over-DSL works by using an integrated access device at the end-user location. Using a symmetrical DSL (SDSL), voice and data lines are connected, through this device, to the telephone company's central office. The end-user location must be within a certain distance from the central office. This prequalification ensures both the quality and speed of the voice and data traffic over VoDSL.

The VoDSL device packetizes all of a user's traffic and prioritizes the voice and data packets, giving priority to voice transmissions. Symmetrical DSL (SDSL) differs from other types of DSL because the outgoing and incoming data travel at the same speed. VoDSL should not be confused with the voice capability of ADSL, which enables a single voice signal to run along a copper line using a splitter.

The benefits

In addition to the cost savings, VoDSL has several other benefits, including:

Fast Web access -- Enables employees to have direct Internet access without dial-up and empowers your business with high-speed capabilities like videoconferencing.

Excellent voice services -- Provides the same quality of service as traditional business lines with additional features not found on traditional lines.

Cost savings -- Small businesses now have access to extensive high-speed Internet capabilities without outrageous expenses.

The considerations

As you search for providers, make sure to ask questions and weigh all options before making a purchase. Some things to ask your service provider about before you buy:

Service guarantees -- Ask what kind of service guarantees you will receive and compare them with other providers.

Equipment monitoring and management -- The provider should have systems in place to monitor your equipment. With 24/7 monitoring by trained professionals, you can count on a maximization of performance and a minimization of downtime.

Network security protection -- Your provider should maintain a secure connection between your on-site equipment and the provider's network to prevent information from falling into hostile hands.

Matthew Wajda is director of sales, commercial, for the state of Ohio at ICG Communications.

Is VoDSL right for you?

Some issues to consider when determining whether VoDSL can help your business:

  • Is your business a moderate-to-heavy user of toll calling?

  • Does it have between four and 24 phone lines?

  • Have you considered purchasing some form of Internet connectivity? (i.e., dial-up, ISDN, T1 or DSL)

  • Is your business interested in maintaining enhanced calling features, such as call waiting, call forwarding, speed dialing, caller ID or three-way calling?

If you answer yes to all of these questions, you should explore VoDSL as an option for your business.