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Is VoIP Ready for the Mass Market?

Bank of America to move to Voice-over-IP for over 160,000 telephones across the entire organization.

Steve Venezia has big plans for the 1,500 or so traders at Bank of America (BofA) when it comes to their phone systems. In fact, he has big plans for the way in which everyone communicates at the banking giant.

Over the next three years, Venezia, managing director of the network computing group and network services at the bank, plans to move BofA from the traditional time division multiplexing (TDM) in the Private Branch exchange (PBX) circuit-based phone system it currently has in place to cutting-edge Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services for its more than 160,000 telephones that are spread across the organization. It's a mammoth undertaking and one whose scope and impact on the organization is not lost on Venezia. "It's being managed closely under a microscope," he says, adding that it's very early in the process. "We're just starting to get into this whole endeavor. We're getting ready to deploy the business case."

The first challenge Venezia faces is explaining VoIP to the company's different business lines and outlining how it will improve their operations. "We need to make them understand what VoIP is and how it integrates. We're just starting to do that and are working closely with the risk and audit departments," he notes.

BofA -- which works with outsourcing giant EDS -- has chosen a number of VoIP partners to assist in the project, firms like San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems, which has shipped more than 2.6 million IP phones to date, and New York-based IPC Information Systems, a trading-solutions firm that provides VoIP-based trading turrets. "They're fast movers and have leadership status in implementing VoIP on large trading floors for leading financial institutions," Venezia says of IPC, a longtime BofA vendor.

Despite the complexity of the project, Venezia asserts that VoIP is worth the effort. "It provides better technology for cheaper costs," he says.

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