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updated 10/28/2004 2:50:18 PM ET 2004-10-28T18:50:18

More than two-thirds of the world's biggest companies will within the next two years have begun deployment of Voice over Internet Protocol services to employees' desktops, according to a report by Deloitte Touche, the consultancy firm.

The report, based on survey of 131 large multinationals, cites cost savings as the main factor driving adoption of VoIP technology at big companies. More than 80 percent of companies surveyed cited cost reduction as the key driver behind VoIP deployment.

Some estimates have suggested that companies can save more than 60 percent of their voice communications costs by switching from traditional circuit-switched services to VoIP technology that uses a company's existing data network to route internal calls.

But the report notes that while 26 percent of those taking part in the survey said their companies had already deployed desktop VoIP, only one-third of these companies offered it to all employees, leaving room for additional cost reduction.

Beyond cost savings, the Deloitte report suggests that VoIP has the potential to transform enterprises' operations, including call centers, offshoring functions and support for telecommuting by improving network ubiquity, utilization and efficiency. The survey finds 79 percent of early VoIP adopters are either mostly or highly satisfied with the technology.

"The initial performance of desktop VoIP was generally poor, with voice quality significantly inferior to that from existing analogue systems," noted Dave Tansley, technology and telecoms partner at Deloitte. "However, the falling price of VoIP equipment, the rising quality of calls, improved functionality and the growing experience of service providers has collectively made VoIP a much more attractive option for enterprises.

"Organizations must balance the implications of VoIP on their infrastructure costs, alongside its impact on organizational efficiency and performance. It is an important new technology, which has the potential to deliver cost and efficiency benefits to companies that deploy it wisely. But the technology must be applied sensitively, since its potential to disrupt is still substantial.

"VoIP may eventually become a de facto standard communication technology that does not require a moment's thought," added Tansley. "But today it still requires careful consideration. Decision-makers need to bear in mind the telephone's standing as one of the most critical business tools.

"Both clients and employees are far less tolerant of a malfunctioning phone system than they are of IT breakdowns. VoIP requires new systems, new equipment and new skills — all of which require investment, new capabilities, and training."

© The Financial Times Ltd 2013. "FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times.

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