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PC World

Internet fax -- What are you waiting for?

August 30, 1999
Web posted at: 1:48 p.m. EDT (1748 GMT)

by Liane Gouthro

(IDG) -- These days you can communicate with anyone and send almost anything over the Internet. At the click of a button, you can make PC-to-PC phone calls, send e-mail, and send faxes. It's usually cheaper and easier to communicate over the Web, so you'd think everyone would.
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But in the case of sending a fax via the Internet, they're not.

The hesitation is especially baffling when you consider results of a study by Gartner Group's Dataquest market researchers. Companies expect their fax usage to increase over the next two years. Clearly, many could save money by rerouting their fax transmissions over the Internet and intranets, using IP fax solutions. It's cheaper and faster than sending them over the public switched telephone network.

Internet faxing services are popping up everywhere. So why is the service taking so long to catch on?

Quality over quantity

Consumers want better fax quality, not just faxing that is free or easily available, according to Dataquest's study. Consumers want to know just what they are investing in.

"A lot of people have an interest in buying eventually," says Andrew Johnson, a principal analyst with Dataquest.

"We're looking at a market where 15 percent of people said they'd be buying in a year, and 40 percent of people will be ready to buy in two years. So what about that 25 percent who are waiting the extra year? They're not in a rush, but they will buy," Johnson says. "They have some concerns about confidentiality and reliability of delivery. They want to know who will address these concerns."

With all the fax-over-IP options available, the market belongs to the consumers. And the consumers are ready to hear what the vendors are saying.

Vendors face a challenge, Johnson notes.

"They must either fix what people consider to be a problem, or else convince these people that this isn't really a problem," Johnson says. "Whether these issues are real or not, this is why the consumers are waiting." He adds that people will buy more Internet fax services once they are convinced of the reliability.

Most IP faxing service providers are aware of the challenge they face, Johnson adds. Many are taking steps to deal with both confidentiality and reliability issues, he says.

Dataquest seems confident that consumers will be swayed. The study estimates that the number of IP fax pages will grow from 1.7 billion pages in 1999 to 14 billion pages in 2002.

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