What will the next phone system look like?

Phone systems have been evolving over the past ten years from the traditional T1/OC3 TDM trunks with various line side circuits like ONS, OPS, and E&M to VoIP. In particular Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Open source phone systems like Freeswitch and Asterisk have become more main stream, but these systems still require phone sets that support the SIP protocol and they have fallen behind when it comes to supporting video.

The next gen business phone system will leverage  the smart phones that employees already have. When you go through the door at work, your phone will connect to the local WIFI and start a client that registers with the corporate phone system. If you are registered, the phone system will direct calls (with caller ID) to your apple or android phone. When you leave the building, calls will go to voice mail or be re-directed to an alternate number.

Voice mail will be converted to either text based email, email with voice recordings or text messages. The app on your phone will allow you to prioritize how incoming calls are handled with a simple graphical user interface. Priority of calls will be based on the time of day so that work calls drop in priority after hours.

Phone systems of the past have been feature rich systems that most people don’t understand. Most users don’t even know how to transfer a call. How many times has a person said that they would try to transfer you and then apologize in case the call drops?

Phone systems of the future will work exactly the same way your cell phone works. The business part of the phone system will have a single Ethernet connection with a web page for the system administrator. The web page will have a list of Internet Telephony Service Providers making adding trunks a one click process. Increasing and decreasing line appearances will all be done with minimal input from the web page. On the line side there will be a list of authorized users with credentials. All features will be configured by the user on their mobile device.

The low usage costs of Internet Telephony have made billing obsolete so large portions of what phone systems do today will no longer be required. Mobile phones will be able to communicate through the corporate system using audio or video with Skype, Google talk or custom clients.

Incumbent phone system providers may be caught by surprise if they don’t see the change coming and start programs to address the future needs of their customers.

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