Singapore cool to IP telephony

Singapore is lagging behind most Asia-Pacific countries in voice-data integration, despite optimistic projections for the IP (Internet Protocol) telephony market.

          Singapore is lagging behind most Asia-Pacific countries in voice-data integration, despite optimistic projections for the IP (Internet Protocol) telephony market.

          In its research report "IP Services - The Asian Flavour?", International Data Corporation (IDC) found that in Singapore, 60% of the companies queried are not planning to bundle voice and data on their wide area networks (WANs) while an estimated 33% are considering doing so but at a later time.

          In comparison, the IDC study, which covered 875 large organisations across nine Asia-Pacific markets, found that 40% do not have plans to integrate voice and data traffic on their company's WAN, says Sandra Ng, vice president for communications and peripherals research, IDC Asia-Pacific.

          "The PSTN (public switch telephone network) infrastructure in Singapore is very good which made companies reluctant to use a new technology," says Ng. "There is a natural resistance among human beings to move away from what's comfortable."

          Service providers also find the Singapore market rather conservative.

          "Singapore is still backward in terms of adopting new technology," says Terrence Mak, chief executive officer of UGotACall, a Singapore-based company providing IP-centric communications solutions and services. It does not help that in an organisation, there is usually one set of people who makes the recommendations and another set who makes the decisions.

          "The IT managers may have liked the new technology and suggested it but it is the business managers -- CFOs or CEOs -- who decide," says Ng of IDC.

          Mak agrees.

          "Many top managers are not aware of the benefits and advantages of new technology."

          Singaporeans are more used to systematic ways of acquiring technology which is an obstacle to fast adoption, he adds. But he believes that this will change in the near future and it will be faster than expected.

          "Because the younger generation are fast technology-adopters. They have the knack for these things," he explains.

          Overall, companies in the Asia-Pacific are also shying away from IP telephony due to the companies' lack of confidence in the quality of service (QoS) of IP telephony, says Ng.

          IP telephony QoS is still "a big question", notes Simon Chew, a senior analyst for data communications at IDC. "There is (still) a need to identify for an end-to-end solution for a quality service especially since the network is shared with data traffic."

          "Without proper equipment and engineering skill set, voice quality is difficult to manage and ensure with data and voice traffic on the same WAN," says KY Lee, vice president for East Asia operations of Wherever.net, an IP telephony and communications service provider. Lee adds that since technology and equipment changes fast, it becomes a financial burden.

          "New equipment and technology needs new skills set in addition to the need of investing in new equipment," he says. Despite this, IP telephony revenue in the Asia-Pacific is expected to reach a 104% compound annual growth rate by the year 2005. IP telephony infrastructure deployment may be a huge investment but it brings cost-cutting benefits in the long term, he adds.

          "(Its) quality is good enough and bearable to justify cost savings," says Chew.

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