Up until recently, most vendors working in the IP Telephony arena considered VoIP over twisted pair an improbability – in fact this novel idea was pretty much brushed aside. After all, there is a lot more money to be made by having companies rip and replace their existing architecture in order to pave the way for IP communications.
But then the recession hit and suddenly companies everywhere -- especially small to medium sized businesses -- were looking for a simpler and more affordable way to deploy VoIP across their organizations. The only logical way to do this is to make use of existing infrastructure. If only there was a way
, many business owners thought, to recycle those existing phone lines
and telephony switches that were getting so perilously close to the end of their lifecycle.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this conundrum. Last year, Ontario, Canada-based Phybridge Inc. introduced the UniPhyer, a “plug-and-play” appliance that that lets companies deploy VoIP quickly, easily and more affordably using their existing telephone cabling.
“What? VoIP over twisted pair?” you might ask. “Can that really work?”
Yes, it can. Thanks to some homegrown ingenuity and engineering diligence, Phybridge (News - Alert) has brought to market a VoIP appliance that breaks the “VoIP deployment paradigm” by enabling businesses to create a “parallel network,” dedicated for voice, using existing telephone cabling -- yet which is completely integrated in with a company’s existing IP network.
The compact appliance, which sits in the server closet, offers a single point of convergence to the data network – without requiring companies to actually pile voice onto the network. That’s important because the convergence of voice onto a network can result in a variety of problems – quality of service issues, latency, interruption of data transfers, and, in worst case scenarios, complete network outages. Considering that so many companies are now starting to deploy hosted and SaaS (News - Alert)-based software and services for mission-critical operations, converging voice onto the network is only going to get more challenging – more scary.
Up until the introduction of the UniPhyer, companies had no way of repurposing twisted pair to deliver the productivity benefits of converged IP-based communications. The appliance, which comes in 24- and 48-port models, simply hooks up with a company’s existing PBX (News - Alert) or, alternatively, the main switch on the LAN, and from there the phones are hooked up to the UniPhyer. The appliance, which works with any VoIP service, delivers power over Ethernet over existing telephone cabling – thus solving the problem of how to power-up the IP phones. Phybridge claims it can be installed in as little as an hour, depending on the number of phone lines.
Thus the UniPhyer is a more affordable alternative to the traditional “rip-and-replace” approach of installing all new equipment and architecture – the model that Cisco (News - Alert) and other telephony solutions providers have relied on for years to boost their profits and maintain what is tantamount to a stranglehold on the VoIP market. The appliance works with most vendors’ IP phones and IP PBXs – and the IP phones are connected by way of a special PoE adapter at each end point.
The UniPhyer holds a huge advantage for businesses located in older buildings (especially ones built with concrete walls and floors), as the cabling associated with network upgrades can often be the biggest cost and the main source of deployment headaches. With the UniPhyer, companies can use the existing cabling that is already installed (in there with the copper pipes, electrical cabling – maybe even asbestos and other bad stuff that you don’t want to open up).
Suddenly everyone – vendors and customers alike – are taking notice of this new approach. Some of the major telephony vendors are even getting in on the game simply because the UniPhyer, as an intermediary appliance, gives their customers a faster, easier and more affordable path to deploy VoIP. For example, Phybridge recently announced that UniPhyer is now certified interoperable with Ayaya’s telephony products – and it is rumored that other major VoIP gear makers are taking a strong interest in partnering with the company as well.
To learn a little more about Phybridge and the UniPhyer, TMCnet recently did an interview with company CEO John Croce and company Founder and President Oliver Emmanuel, who is credited with inventing the UniPhyer appliance. What follows are excerpts from the interview:
PB: Was there was a “Eureka!” moment when the idea for UniPhyer came to fruition? Was this an idea that had already been out there for a while – it’s just that no one had yet pursued it? What was it that finally made this idea come to fruition – and led you to bring this product to market?
JC: The idea came from out-of-the-box thinking by the inventor Oliver Emmanuel. The accepted method of converging voice onto data created many challenges for customers and providers. Customers had to take a leap of faith with investment of time and money before trialing the solution and for providers no two situations were the same. Oliver’s idea was why not leverage the telephony infrastructure that is proven reliable, and create a complete parallel network for voice.
PB: Were there any obstacles to making this idea work (beyond getting backing) – such as incorporating the Power over Ethernet capability?
JC: The real value was Oliver being able to find a way to deliver power and signaling over one pair.
PB: VoIP is now a very mature technology -- why did it take as long as it did for this product to come to market?
JC: Paradigms are established and all the fixes come from that paradigm (VPN, PoE etc.). It takes out of the box thinking and commitment to bring a game changing technology to market.
PB: I believe you said this is a patented product but I’m also wondering if it isn’t the actual architecture that is patented – in other words, without going too far down the path of describing how patent law works, does Phybridge own the “idea” of running VoIP and PoE over existing phone lines, or just the configuration of the components within the appliance itself?
JC: No we don’t have a patent on the method -- it is on the ability to carry over two wires. Phybridge will be the brand known for this.
PB: What challenges, if any, came up with regard to signal quality when developing UniPhyer – sometimes when you combine VoIP and power on the same line (such as with powerline, or BPL technology) the electrical fields can cause disruption of the voice signals (sometimes due to a lack of shielding). Was this a challenge that needed to be addressed at all when UniPhyer was being developed?
OE: Signal quality was certainly an issue particularly on the count of crosstalk, however the challenge was addressed.
PB: What kind of cost savings can firms realize by deploying VoIP with UniPhyer, as opposed to converging voice onto the LAN? By that I mean do you have a standard calculation that firms can use to determine the level of ROI?
JC: We do have an optimizer calculator for VAR partners to use to compare deployment methods. Our estimate is the customers can save more than 50 percent of LAN readiness costs and save 80 percent in reduced time to deploy. In addition, day two management costs are drastically reduced. We have Nemertis completing a study for us to highlight the typical costs of deployment and management.
PB: Are there any limitations with regard to converging voice with other applications on the company network, if a small company so chooses, when using UniPhyer?
JC: No limitations what so ever. You get the reliability of a legacy network with all the benefits of a fully converged IP network without compromise.
PB: Phybridge has already entered into some key vendor partnerships – the recently-announced tie-ups with Avaya and Zultys come to mind – but obviously these vendors offer varying levels of integration services and support as well – and I was wondering if, by the same token, they see UniPhyer as a potential threat to this part of their business. In other words, if UniPhyer makes it so much faster, cheaper and easier for these small companies to deploy VoIP, then doesn’t that take away from some of the installation/integration opportunities that these vendors might be able to capitalize on?
JC: The reality is that customers have a specific budget they can allocate to this project and for customers to succeed there are three key components: VoIP gear, network readiness, and applications and training. The return for the customer is in the applications and training. Too often, LAN readiness ends up costing more for customers taking away from the budget for applications. Ultimately partners can earn more but at the same time better serve their customers by focusing on applications and not the stresses of network readiness. It’s a win-win-win relationship: a win for customer because more focus on the applications and a more effective deployment experience; a win for partners because they can deploy with confidence knowing they are leveraging a proven infrastructure; and a win for the IP manufacturers because it is their brand on the phone and if quality is not good the customer blames the brand and not a faulty network.
PB: Explain how vendors such as Avaya benefit from partnering with you.
JC: Many partners will benefit because currently Cisco (News - Alert) has a significant competitive advantage given they own the data networks. All other players are on the visiting team. With the UniPhyer as a more customer and partner centric deployment method that doesn’t require data network disruption, the UniPhyer will provide other providers with a strategic advantage taking back home field advantage.
PB: I also understand you are working to build a reseller network – and here the recent announcement about the partnership with Westcon Group comes to mind -- I was wondering what Phybridge’s approach/philosophy will be, moving forward?
JC: Our approach and philosophy is different. Too often, manufacturers view VAR partners as a means to an end, get sales. We view our relationship and responsibility differently. Our goal is to make our partners hugely successful. To achieve this, our technology has to solve real business problems customers and partners while being easy to use and manage yet reliable and robust. We have achieved this with the UniPhyer.
PB: Do you plan to build a “vast” reseller network, working with companies of all sizes -- or will you be highly selective about which resellers you work with?
JC: We will work with a broad base of resellers interested in helping their customers. Our plans are to support our partners with strong business building strategies. Our plan is to launch our Business of Technology workshops in the fall. Think twice, deploy once. Is it good for my customers? Is it good for my business? We look forward to driving change that will be a catalyst to IP telephony adoption in business.
PB: Thank you both, very much, for your time.
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Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard