Unified Communications key to flexible comms in 2011

Tuesday, 08 February, 2011
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As the debate about the NBN rages, there is growing public awareness that the future of voice communication is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and not traditional lines. As a result, the VoIP for business market will hot up substantially in 2011. And, due to persisting global economic uncertainty, companies will look for quick return on investment in case the economy was to rapidly shift back into a downturn, predicts Marc Englaro*, Fonality Australia’s Managing Director.

Telstra’s profitability woes will continue, fuelling speculation into the long-term viability of their existing business model which relies on inflated prices maintained through ownership of that copper infrastructure. As technology evolves and IP-based technologies gain greater access to customers through data links rather than traditional phone lines, the value of Telstra’s copper infrastructure will diminish rapidly. Their traditional voice business will struggle to thrive in a more competitive, lower-margin environment.

In response, Telstra is likely to shore up existing customers in extended contracts and move their business to new sources of revenue associated with content such as apps, TV and other media rather than infrastructure.

There will also be further consolidation in the undifferentiated voice and data markets. Recent examples include M2 buying People Telecom and Commander, iiNet buying AAPT’s consumer business, and the TPG/Soul/Pipe merger. Increased competition and downward pressures on prices force some players out of the market, and others to look for efficiencies in scale by buying market share.

The Australian economy will remain fairly strong, but in an environment where there is still uncertainty in the rest of the world. This confidence will lead Australian businesses to invest more in technology this year. At the same time, the persisting uncertainty will force companies to look for quick ROI in case the economy was to rapidly shift back into a downturn.

By giving call minutes away at wholesale cost, and concentrating on value -added communication technology, noisy upstarts like Fonality will create a perfect storm for the traditional telco business model, and VoIP providers will grab a large part of the small to medium business market.

Demand for value-adding unified communications features will further aid the rise of new cloud-oriented business communications players. Previously the SMB sector had significantly lower adoption rates of UC technologies, mainly due to lack of IT expertise as well as tighter budgets. However, this situation will change with the availability of alternative software delivery models like software-as-a-service, according to analyst firm Springboard Research.

Learning from the successes and failures of larger organisations, unified communications in the SMB sector will be less about interoperability and convergence of systems and more about real business value, for example, with support for remote workers.

A recent survey of 1000 Australians found although 86% thought technology has made it easier to work from home, only 16% of people who had to work over Christmas were able to do so remotely.

Of those who took time off over Christmas, 31% checked emails and 25% answered business phone calls while on leave. Australians also draw on new communication tools to stay in touch with work, with 19% using instant messaging (IM) and 17% social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

In today’s highly competitive and globalised business environment, having a flexible unified communications solution means people have access to a variety of communications tools on a number of different devices, be it their PC, laptop, mobile phone or tablet - all delivered through the cloud.

*Marc Englaro is Managing Director of Fonality Australia. The company’s virtual phone system, Fonality Connect, has already been adopted by more than 700 SMBs in Australia. Englaro joined the company through Fonality’s acquisition of the leading SugarCRM integrator, Insightful Solutions, which he cofounded in 2005.

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