Beyond ‘Telecom for Dummies': An Interview with Author Stephen Olejniczak
What made you decide to write your first book on telecommunications: Telecom for Dummies?
I was responsible for training all of the new employees at TMC Communications, and I developed a basic manual back then to explain how the industry worked, basic troubleshooting and, a general overview. I called it my “Telecom 101” class, and after grousing for years about how there wasn’t a good book available, a coworker suggested I just write it myself.
Your last three books have been focused on VoIP. What are the most common issues you think businesses are still encountering today when implementing this technology?
My greatest concern about VoIP is the customer side, especially in business applications. A large telecom company can monitor the latency, jitter, and packet loss within their network, but they have no control over what happens before the call reaches them. The network at a customer’s site may have one Internet connection that’s used for web surfing, email, and 10 or 15 phone lines. If the bandwidth of that Internet connection isn’t partitioned for the different types of traffic, it is far too easy for an employee to be downloading a video and eat up all the bandwidth. The other people in the office would only know that their phone calls have horrible quality, and not that their own network is being overtaxed. This generally causes an angry email being sent to the carrier, who finds nothing wrong within their network and, shall we say, pointed accusations and injured feelings generally follow.
Where do you think people most often go wrong when implementing telecommunications plans?
The hardest part is to accurately predict the growth of your telecom needs. This leaves you either paying for bandwidth and services you may never use, or scrambling to upgrade what you have. The widespread use of IP based telephony does reduce many of the scalability issues of the past where you had to decide if you wanted 7 individual phone lines or a full T-1, so as long as you can accurately determine what you need, and manage your bandwidth with rate shaping or something similar, you should be good.
What obstacles and new developments do you envision in the world of Unified Communications (UC)?
It’s hard to tell at this point. Since everything is moving into the cloud, it greatly diminishes most of the technical and logistical hurdles. That said, the concept of it has the potential for it to easily turn into “Big Brother.” Many UC systems will identify the “presence” of an employee – which is great. Are they on the phone? On their cell? In a meeting? Available for IM conversation? When can I call them back? But it seems like people may begin craving a bit of time away from prying eyes to get their work done without everyone being aware of the fact that they’re hitting buttons on their keyboard or keypad.
How do you think the increasing globalization of business has impacted telecommunications?
I have mixed emotions about it. I’ve seen quite a few of new carriers enter the US Market from Europe and Asia that have negotiated some amazing deals on rates into the US. This increases competition and lowers the cost for interstate traffic, but we are now bouncing our call information and audio off of foreign lands which is a bit of a security concern. This was never an issue before when you needed a dedicated land-line to complete a call, but when it takes a few milliseconds to bounce a call off a switch in South Korea or England, we’ve now created a foreign nexus for data mining. At a market level, some of the foreign carriers I’ve worked with are top-notch and have easy trouble reporting systems in place that are available 24×7. That said, some other companies are only available from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM their time which makes service a challenge. It is an evolving market and situation. It will be interesting to see where it ends up.
If there is one new emerging trend in telecommunications that you think people should key their eyes on, what is it?
Cloud based UC. It prevents you from buying hardware, it’s infinitely more scalable than traditional phone systems, and they generally provide an amazing set of features that would be impossible in a traditional hardware configuration. The position of it in the cloud and the evolution of smart phones also makes it the technology the perfect platform to deliver all communications content, not just audio phone calls, but email, IM, video, and even document sharing.
About the Author:
Stephen Olejniczak has over 20 years of experience in operations side of the telecom industry. He was recently the Director of Operations at ATI which was recognized in 2004 as the 41st fastest growing privately held company in the US. He spends some of his free time writing technical books for the industry, having authored such classics as Telecom for Dummies and VoIP Deployment for Dummies.