Bill Smith, BellSouth CTO
Is it possible that Bill Smith just doesn't understand how VoIP technology works? Or has he been repeating the company line for so long that he confuses reality with PR spin?
Bill was a headline speaker this morning at the Fall VON conference, offering an "industry perspective" entitled "VoIP: An RBOC Dinosaur's Perspective." I should note that he claimed that the "dinosaur" in the presentation's title was "tongue in cheek."
At the beginning of his presentation he spoke a bit about VoIP and Hurrican Katrina -- his made the claim that critics are doing consumers and the telecommunications industry a "disservice" by claiming that VoIP would have made a difference (in providing reliable phone service) in the Hurricane affected areas. He said, "last time I checked, VoIP needs to run on electricity too."
But it is Bill Smith (and BellSouth) that is doing a disservice to customers and the industry. By claiming that the infrastructure requirements for TDM and VoIP services are equivalent, two critical issues are entirely missed:
- VoIP call handling can be performed anywhere that the Internet reaches. MCI, in their briefing this morning, spoke of a number of their customers who were able to dynamically reroute VoIP traffic bound for Gulf Coast facilities to other locations. TDM could not have done this. Even consumers with VoIP services could pick up their VoIP router, evacuate, and plug it back in whether they were temporarily in Atlanta, Dallas or New Mexico -- and continue to receive calls and messages.
- Providing continued services within the impacted area does, as Bill says, still require some physical infrastructure including power, network connectivity, and even water for chilling equipment to keep the telecom gear cool enough to operate. But the amount of infrastucture necessary to provide Internet connectivity is significantly less (and thus requires less power, water, and human intervention) than the equivalent TDM equipment.