So here we are in early 2015 and i thought we should have a discussion about the future of the PSTN and where we are going in the Thompson/Okanagan with VoIP telephone service. First a quick definition of the acronyms before we dive in.

VoIP- (voice over Internet protocol) – Method of sending voice telephone calls over an IP network usually the Internet. PSTN- (public switched telephone network)- Regular dedicated analog telephone lines like we are all used too.

VoIP is not new to Canada as the technology has been around for over a decade however the full transition away from PSTN to VoIP has certainly been a much slower process than some experts had predicted. Why? A long list of reasons from comfort with status quo to trust issues to a very real problem with inadequate networks. But make no mistake about it…VoIP is here to stay. A prime indicator of this is the fact that most major telecommunications companies are transitioning their back-haul networks over to VoIP. Offering VoIP to their end customers has proven to be more of a challenge for some of the following reasons:

  1. Inadequate Internet or network connectivity to the end customer business location. VoIP is time sensitive network traffic and as such data transmissions between to callers need to be timely and correct. If this is not the case we end up with “Call Quality” issues that i suspect every reader has experienced at one time or another.
  2. Customer confidence. Some business owners, typically those who are 50 or older, simply do not trust or want to deal with using an Internet connection for their phone calls. Even though there is typically cost savings associated they are not worth the hassle (in the business owners opinion). Add the this that PSTN lines have come down in cost and are more competitive with a VoIP service.

Reasons users choose PSTN lines over VoIP

So where does that leave PSTN? Good question and I suspect the answer is “slowly diminishing over time”. There is still a place for good old fashioned analog telephone lines. 1- Emergency lines for building alarms, Elevator panic phones, Fire alarms 2- Rural areas of BC that are still inadequately serviced with Internet access. 3- The older generation who quite simply do not need or want any more technology in their lives.

Primary Draws of VoIP Service

“As Telephone service professionals in the Thompson, Okanagan & BC Interior for the past 30 years we find that we are regularly asked our opinion on how to properly “equip” a conference or board room when it comes to displaying content”

This is an excellent question as displaying and sharing content will likely be a common occurrence in your new board room. The time to ask this question and contemplate screen options, sound output and communication cabling is right at the prewire phase. The last thing you want to do is have us come in and try to get a connection to your board room table after the fact in your brand new board room!

When it come to content display, there are 3 main factors; Size & scalability, sound output, input connectivity.

1) Size & Scalability – Bigger is better, having a display that is too small for your boardroom can make your presentation fail before you even begin. Content is king and if your clients can’t see the words or charts that are being displayed on the screen all efforts were futile. The Screen size should be large enough to be seen from every seat in the room and content to be legible from the furthest seat in the room. The industry standard for viewing distance is 1.5x the screen width. So for an 80″ display you would want the furthest seat to be at 120″ (10 feet) away. Sharp’s 90″ AQUOS 1080p LED Display dazzles with advanced pixel structure for the most breathtaking HD images, a great addition to any boardroom looking to add “wow” factor. However there are plenty of conference rooms that are too large for a LCD screen to make sense. This is where HD overhead projectors really shine. When you look at the features and price point of a new Ultra Short Throw (UST) projector you can project a massive, crisp, clean image and all with no shadowing from the presenter. Video scaling is changing the size of a video frame in order to match the native resolution of a TV or computer screen. This can be very important in being able to see the full screen of the connected laptop to the boardroom display. You will want to make sure that there are no cut off portions of the screen and that the proper image is being displayed. It is ideal to have a Video Scaler in the boardroom audio video system to effortlessly adjust and make corrections to any compatibility issues that may arise from connecting various laptops.

2) Sound Output – OK you now have the properly sized screen to display crisp, clear content but you still need to figure out the audio. In our opinion there are 2 audio considerations to keep in mind. These are via a conference phone of some type for a dial-in bridge type call as well as the audio coming from the video device. ie- listening to a Webinar. There are still times when all a group is wanting to accomplish is an audio conference and for this there is no better solution that the Polycom line of analog, IP and wireless HD audio conference pods. These have been a staple in conference rooms for decades and still have place. There are still plenty of times however when a board room meeting is in more of a passive setting like web based training for example. In all of the scenarios when you are viewing content from the Web or a participants p/c you will have a need to hear the associated audio. Gone are the days of everyone trying to hear over the laptop speaker that is connected to the board room screen. For a LCD screen the built-in speakers may suffice however in the case of an overhead projector external speakers are highly recommended. These don’t have to cost a massive amount of money and can typically be easily mounted in a T-bar ceiling. While you are at it please spend another couple hundred dollars and make sure that there is A/C power readily available – your presenters will thank you for it!

Board rooms, meeting rooms, war rooms, conference rooms .. they have a lot of different names and have been an integral part of business for a long time. Even though your office conference room might seem to sit and collect dust at times – it is an extremely important piece of your office and needs to be able to accomodate sharing of ideas and information quickly and easily!

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