Eric Pell will tell you that switching from a traditional phone system setup to one based on computer lines and the Internet came down to a simple, two-word reason: saving money.
As director of information systems for Gainey Transportation Services (GTS), a 1,200-truck carrier based in Grand Rapids, MI, moving to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology allowing the carrier to make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line is going to save GTS an estimated $60,000 per year in phone line, maintenance and long distance fees. That’s a big deal in an industry currently beset by high fuel prices and other rising costs, he said.
“We’d also gotten to the point where our phone system was really old – 12 to 15 years in age – so we were going to need to replace it anyway,” Pell told Fleet Owner. “From our perspective, we looked at what it would cost to overall and upgrade our current phone system or move to a new one based on VoIP and the costs to moving to VoIP – along with the features we’d get – made more sense.”
Also, it made more sense as his staff was far more familiar with managing computer systems and Internet connections versus analog phone lines and connections. “Now that our phones run over Internet connections, it proved far easier for us to get the system up and running and troubleshoot problems,” said Pell. “We went live in February with VoIP in our main terminal and Grand Rapids and deployed it to our other nine terminals over the following three months.”
The appeal of VoIP, according to the Federal Communications Commission, is that if you have a broadband Internet connection, you need not maintain and pay the additional cost for a line just to make telephone calls. With many VoIP plans you can talk for as long as you want with any person in the world – the requirement being that the other person has an Internet connection – at a much lower cost.
Rocking T Inc., a TX-based trucking company with offices in several different states, also is using VoIP to cut long distance phone charges because most of their locations had broadband Internet access. It’s using a Quadro4x VoIP system developed by Dallas, TX-based Epygi Technologies because in addition to saving them up to 75% on hardware, maintenance, and long distance charges, it offers voicemail and networking features usually available only to larger companies.
The Quadro acts as a gateway by bridging traditional PSTN network calls onto the Internet, using a relay capability to allow the Quadro to act as a long distance bridge between any phones, said Raymond Brady, Rocking T’s Manger of IT. The freedom to call a co-worker without concern for distance or expense enables greater communication within a business was a major plus, he noted.
“Our installation went very smoothly,” Brady said. “I had the first box up and going and made a test VoIP call in about an hour. I have configured such connections before and I was very pleased with how easy the process was.”
In GTS’ case, VoIP allows customers to now dial any of its offices to reach any GTS employee from coast to coast. Another great feature, said Pell, is that employees within the company can use four-digit dialing to contact each other quickly and forward calls between sites simply, without incurring long distance charges. Additionally, employees in remote offices like Atlanta and Lexington now have voicemail capabilities.
“We also have more capabilities, such as intelligent routing, which is especially valuable for our driver managers,” Pell added. “We now set these managers up in groups so if one is busy, a driver gets automatically switched to another manager in that pool for faster response.”
The FC noted that, because VoIP is digital, it may offer features and services that are not available with a traditional phone – but vice versa as well. Some VoIP services don’t work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power, not all VoIP services connect directly to emergency services through 9-1-1, and VoIP providers may or may not offer directory assistance/white page listings, the FCC noted.
That being said, however, the FCC has strongly backed VoIP – to the point of exempting it from state regulation and taxes. In November last year, the FCC voted in a 5-0 ruling that allowed Edison, N.J.-based Vonage’s broadband Internet protocol -to-PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) communications business to be considered “interstate” in nature and therefore insulated the company from regulation by individual states.