The last decade of the twentieth century saw the Internet evolve from a resource sharing and file transfer medium for a few universities and government agencies into a communications phenomenon of unimaginable proportion and power. The Internet Protocol has accordingly become the de facto standard for moving bits of data from one place to another, whether across the Internet or through private networks. The first decade of the twenty-first century may witness the transformation and incorporation of all types of human communications systems -- not just data but voice, video, imaging and even forms as yet undreamed of -- into a converged global communications network based on the Internet Protocol (IP).

The first step in this process of IP globalization is called IP Telephony, and it is already well under way. IP Telephony is not just a matter of converting voice signals to data bits, although that is part of the process. Also involved are the call set-up messages and the networking information -- transparent to the end user -- that make possible the convenience and ease-of-use offered by networked telephony systems. Thus students at a remote campus or office workers at a branch office can enjoy and benefit from the features and functions of the PBX at the central site -- voice mail, music-on-hold, telephone set displays, message lights, to name a few -- as though they were directly connected to the central site.

IP Telephony is growing throughout the world as communications decision makers begin to take advantage of the potential cost savings afforded by converged infrastructures (See Networking.). NEC America Corporate Networks Group's initiative to facilitate the migration to IP Telephony is called NEON: NEC's Enterprise Open Network. One of the essential aspects of NEON is honoring our commitment to investment protection for our customers. We are therefore "IP enabling" our existing line of traditional PBXs, Key Telephone Systems and Document Solutions so that our customers can enjoy the cost savings of IP Telephony without rendering obsolete their existing systems.

The power of this solution not only protects customer investments (both past and future) in NEC systems, but delivers all the benefits of our traditional PBX without the geographic boundaries of the past.

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