It’s no exaggeration to say that by the turn of the century, phone systems were really in a serious design dilemma. Mobile phones and apps were taking over. Call volumes and the demands of business phone systems were basically overloading the market’s ability to deal with the increased loads. Added to this, businesses were demanding better, cheaper and more efficient phone systems.
It was a classic design problem, and one which has an important place in the history of design- Technology was effectively redefining itself. We’re used to seeing technology overtake other technology, but this was the first time that an entire class of technology was literally buried by demand from related types of technology.
It was a real sector-wide issue for the entire communications industry. The old 80s and 90s types of phone system were more than obsolete- They were liabilities. They couldn’t be upgraded or tweaked for the new ocean of technologies which were coming onstream. Add to this unholy situation the fact that the expansion of broadband and massively increased data loads was also submerging the old systems, which were never designed to handle anything like these volumes.
Another issue was quite self-inflicted- Hardware. If you ever see an old style phone system, the first thing you’ll see is cost in various forms, including proprietary hardware and “features” built in all over the system. Just what everybody needed- A phone system which required both training and the patience of God to operate, complete with its own distinctive foibles. Imagine a half million dollar phone, complete with all those functions you’ll never use, and you’ll get the idea.
Market Forces, Necessity and Common Sense
It was becoming hideously obvious that any new phone systems would have to be designed according to almost totally different specifications to their predecessors.
The new systems needed to be:
- Scalable and customizable- Different businesses have different, sometimes very different needs. Many businesses, in fact, are entirely communications-based. They sell products and services entirely through communications media. Any new telephone systems would have to take into account that situation.
- Cheaper by far- Another big issue was getting good cost values for buyers. If you’ve been noticing a cost-cutting war among all service suppliers in the phone industry, this is a murderously competitive sector, and businesses want phone systems that pay for themselves. The result has been progressive price reduction.
- Upgradable- In essence, designing a phone system that’s like a computer system naturally involves upgrading capabilities. The inability to upgrade and work with new technologies killed the old phone systems. Any modern phone system or business system has to have this capacity or it’s just not viable.
- Servers and software- The new systems are server-based, or use “virtual PBX” technologies.
The result has been a gigantic improvement for business communications. This is a case of design logic beating design tradition- The best communications designs are actually internet and computer systems designs. These systems are holistic designs. They’re made to work and evolve with other technologies.
Author Bio:- Tom Mallet is an Australian freelance writer and journalist. He writes extensively in Australia, Canada, Europe, and the US. He’s published more than 500 articles about various topics, including telephone systems and business phone systems.