VoIP for the masses…the end of “voice grade cabling”

November 23, 2011 / General

When I was a cable installer, we often built redundant networks for voice and data communications.  The data cabling was terminated on patch panels, and the voice grade cabling was terminated on wiring blocks. There are thousands of installations done this way.  And there were lots of reasons for it, including cost.  But I think the major reason we kept installing separate “voice grade cabling”  was that , deep down, the key influencers of cabling installation design didn’t believe that the end of voice circuits  would ever happen. We have been talking about convergence of ip telephony and data for at least a decade.  And I believed that it was going to happen…I think.  
When they finally came and took my telephone away, believing was changed to seeing.  As a cabling professional, I understood that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)  enables you to use a telephone over an IP network instead of a traditional PBX that uses time division multiplexing.  I am sure I knew that with the long awaited convergence of voice and data, integration of email, calendars, voicemail, instant messaging  would be possible.  And I probably preached about the cost savings and simplicity that would come about when it finally happened.  But I admit that I was blown away by the experience and possibilities once I began using it for myself.   For me it has dramatically changed how I can work.  My “desk phone” works wherever and whenever I have my laptop turned on.  A quick example: Until this change happened, I had begun to use my mobile phone more and more, even regularly utilizing SMS (text) messaging for business purposes.  But after switching to VoIP, I am beginning to use my mobile phone less often, don’t miss voicemails while travelling, and can communicate in a variety of ways no matter what country, office, or time zone I am in. 
As much as I am enamored with my new VoIP capabilities, the transition hasn’t been seamless.  Which makes me wonder about the impact of this type of convergence on the cabling infrastructure…  Its happening now for real. IP telephony is sensitive to errors because you can hear them in the call quality.   And it is fair to assume that there will be a lot more happening on fewer cables.  If links are overloaded, it could result in latency from packet loss.  Unless you have some overhead, there could be problems from poor signal to noise ratio.  Will this result in a business opportunity for cabling contractors and systems integrators?  I think it already has.  And now that large scale deployments are happening, it might be impactful.  In any case, enterprises getting ready to integrate VoIP will be glad they certified their cabling!