Forrester Research dashed a few entrepreneur's dreams last Friday with the publication of a scathing report on the idea that the impending convergence of voice and data networks will save businesses money. As a result, the report concludes, voice and data convergence will never be ubiquitous.
The report's predictions are remarkably pessimistic, especially for an industry where phrases like "can't be improved" are practically heresy. "Voice data integration will enjoy only limited success due to minimal cost savings, network management complexities, and slow carrier development of integrated services," the summary reads.
Forrester argues that the main reason convergence has been so widely hailed as the next step in the evolution of corporate communications systems is the mistaken notion that running both services out of one piece of equipment will be simpler than the existing system.
"The added complexities of running an integrated network, with voice and data traffic competing for mission-critical status" will be prohibitively difficult, the report says. "Most companies are already concerned with guaranteeing predictable network performance for data without the additional demands of voice traffic."
"No matter how well you engineer the network, corporate voice can't get any better than it is today. There just isn't a compelling case to be made," said Maribel Lopez, analyst in Forrester's Network Strategies service and author of the report. "Multiple networks will live on forever."
The report contends that only network equipment vendors would benefit from integration, and criticises that sector of the industry for overly hyping voice/data convergence. Upgrading existing equipment is expensive and time-consuming enough, without the added complexities of running an integrated network, Forrester says.
The report comes at a time when networking equipment manufacturers like Cisco, 3Com, Bay, and Ascend are all seeking to create multimedia data networking equipment, capable of handling voice, data, and video traffic over one line on one platform. The ability to handle all aspects of a business customer's communications needs within one network is an extremely lucrative prize for companies traditionally relegated to one type of traffic per piece of equipment.