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IP Telephony: The Time Is Now

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October 01, 2001
John Freres

© 2001 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction or transmission without written permission.

Imagine checking into your hotel room, hanging up your garment bag after a long flight and being able to view a listing of restaurants, local services or convenience companies or simply view the room service menu all from the front panel of your phone.

Rather than feverishly hunting for a dial-up connection for e-mail access you simply plug your laptop into an open port on your IP phone and you are now connected at wire speed to the Internet.

These capabilities are not a wish list for the future but standard features for IP telephony available today. Being a seasoned business traveler I have come to view the phone in my hotel room not as a business appliance but as an expensive and featureless intercom system to call the front desk for a wake-up call. Today’s traveler requires ease of access to both voice and data services as many people communicate both telephonically by voice as well as digitally via e-mail. The ideal scenario for people out of the office is to have a single appliance that provides access to voice/ voicemail, e-mail as well as current information for the city they are in all with the touch of a button. IP telephony provides all this functionality with the quality and simplicity of a standard phone. Over the past three years IP telephony has evolved from a departmental or small company technology to the standard for many large corporations. During the recent attacks in New York, a major financial firm who had IP phones on their desks remained 100 percent operational while most conventional systems were down. This self-healing feature of IP-based networks is now extended to the phone (a device that requires 99.999 percent reliability).

Cisco Systems, Inc. has pioneered IP infrastructures globally, today they offer a complete product line of voice over IP and IP telephony products. They are shipping over 40,000 IP phones per month and have built an open architecture for applications developers providing customized applications for their phones. These applications allow a company, hotel or an individual to literally customize the phone to their needs. For example, a guest could have any information available from a Web site for information about the weather, airline delays or rental car companies available on their in-room IP phone and this information could be customized to the individual guest’s requirements. The individual hotel could use the infrastructure available today for data for voice thereby eliminating duplicate costs as well as duplicate maintenance and management. The individual hotel can even push information to each guest and allow him customized features based on his needs. Some of the immediate benefits allow:

  • Convergence: People can get voice mail on their laptop and e-mail with their phones.
  • Wherever you travel, there you are: A user can log into an IP phone anywhere in the world to receive calls and get access to their own set of phone services.
  • Ease of use: Simple to use loaded with features and push-of-the-button services including Web access.
  • Never-ending list of capabilities: Because IP telephony uses open standards any company or hotel can customize the applications of the phone.

Today’s sophisticated travelers require more than just a phone system in their room, they require information appliances that allow them to make business productive or vacation stress free. IP telephony puts information access, ease of use, reliability and robust features at their fingertips. Many travelers will be putting a high level of scrutiny on their travel over the foreseeable future. They will look at the quality of the airlines, rental cars and hotels required for the business trip or vacations, and in doing so they will make their choices based on multiple criteria. One of these criteria is digital access. IP telephony will continue to evolve as a strategic resource for companies who want to get closer to their customer and more seamlessly integrate people and information. Those organizations that service their clients’ needs and use technology to bridge the gaps will be the ones that win in the future.

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