There are many vendors and products in the voice/telephony arena. Some started as pure voice products or solutions like Cisco Call Manager, while others such as Microsoft Office 365 started as an office productivity suite, to which voice and presence became a natural extension, and then later a central part of the core product functionality. We have included details on RCS, however RCS is not globally available, and is limited in its functionality compared to some of the other products listed here.
Unified Communications (UC) is not a standard; there are many different interpretations, but there is a general consensus about what it means – the unification of voice, video, messaging, presence, conferencing, and collaboration into a simple integrated user experience.
UC is an important technology for enterprise customers, it brings mobility and agility to an organisation, improves communication and collaboration, adds a social element, and lowers costs by reducing the need for office space and multiple disparate communications systems each with their own management and control systems. UC can be delivered as a cloud service and has the acronym UCaaS. Leading providers are Microsoft, Google, and Cisco. Other players include IBM, 8X8, and a number of other smaller vendors, as well as telco equipment manufacturers such as Ericsson. We have covered some of the leading solutions in this report, and there are definite opportunities for telcos to collaborate with these vendors, adding integration with core services such as telephony and mobile data, as well as customer support and billing.
There are several elements for an enterprise to consider when developing a UC solution for it to be successful:
- Fixed voice functions and needs (including PBX) and integration into a UC solution
- Mobile voice – billing, call routing, integration with fixed and UC solutions
- Desktop and mobile video calling
- Collaboration tools (conferencing, video conferencing, desktop integration, desktop sharing etc.)
- Desktop integration – how does the solution integrate with core productivity tools (Microsoft Office, Google Apps, OpenOffice etc?)
- PC and mobile clients – can a mobile user participate in a video conference, share files
- Instant messaging and social integration
- How the user is able to interact with the system and how intuitive it is to use. This is sometimes called the user experience and is probably the most important aspect, as a good user experience promotes efficiency and end user satisfaction
From the user perspective, it would be desirable for the solution to include the basic elements shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Basic user needs from Unified Communications
Source: STL Partners
Historically, Enterprise communications has been an area where telcos have been a supplier to the enterprise – delivering voice end points (E.164 phone numbers and mobile devices), voice termination, and outgoing voice and data services.
Organisational voice communications (i.e. internal calling) has been an area of strength for companies like Cisco, Avaya, Nortel and others that have delivered on-premise solutions which offer sophisticated voice and video services. These have grown over the years to provide Instant Messaging (IM), desktop collaboration tools, and presence capabilities. PC clients often replace fixed phones, adding functionality, and can be used when out of the office. What these systems have lacked is deep integration with desktop office suites such as Microsoft Office, Google Apps, and Lotus Notes. Plug-ins or other tools can be used to integrate presence and voice, but the user experience is usually a compromise as different vendors are involved.
The big software vendors have also been active, with Microsoft and IBM adding video and telephony features, and Google building telephony and conferencing into its growing portfolio. Microsoft also acquired Skype and has delivered on its promise to integrate Skype with Lync. Meanwhile, Google has made a number of acquisitions in the video and voice arena like ON2, Global IP Solutions, and Grand Central. The technology from ON2 allows video to be compressed and sent over an Internet connection. Google is pushing the products from ON2 to be integrated into one of the next major disruptors – WebRTC.
Microsoft began including voice capability with its release of Office Communications Server (OCS) in 2007. An OCS user could send instant messages, make a voice call, or place a video call to another OCS user or group of users. Presence was directly integrated with Outlook and a separate product – Office Live Meeting – was used to collaborate. Although OCS included some Private Branch eXchange (PBX) features, few enterprises regarded it as having enough features or capability to replace existing systems from the likes of Cisco. With Office 365, Microsoft stepped up the game, adding a new user interface, enhanced telephony features, integrated collaboration, and multiple methods of deployment using Microsoft’s cloud, on premise, and service provider deployments.
- Technology: Products and Vendors’ Approaches
- Unified Communications
- Microsoft Office 365 – building on enterprise software strengths
- Skype – the popular international behemoth
- Cisco – the incumbent enterprise giant
- Google – everything browser-based
- WebRTC – a major disruptive opportunity
- Rich Communication Service (RCS) – too little too late?
- Broadsoft – neat web integration
- Twilio – integrate voice and SMS into applications
- Tropo – telephony integration technology leader
- Voxeo – a pathfinder in integration
- Hypervoice –make voice a native web object
- Calltrunk – makes calls searchable
- Operator Voice and Messaging Services
- Section Summary
- Telco Case Studies
- Vodafone – 360, One Net and RED
- Telefonica – Digital, Tu Me, Tu Go, BlueVia, Free Wi-Fi
- AT&T – VoIP, UC, Tropo, Watson
- Section Summary
- STL Partners and the Telco 2.0™ Initiative
- Figure 1: Basic user needs from Unified Communications
- Figure 2: Microsoft Lync 2013 client
- Figure 3: Microsoft Lync telephony integration options
- Figure 4: International Telephone and Skype Traffic 2005-2012
- Figure 5: The Skype effect on international traffic
- Figure 6: Voice call charging in USA
- Figure 7: Google Voice call charging in USA
- Figure 8: Google Voice call charging in Europe
- Figure 9: Google outbound call rates
- Figure 10: Calliflower beta support for WebRTC
- Figure 11: Active individual user base for WebRTC, millions
- Figure 12: Battery life compared for different services
- Figure 13: Vodafone One Net Express call routing
- Figure 14: Vodafone One Net Business Call routing
- Figure 15: Enterprise is a significant part of Vodafone group revenue
- Figure 16: Vodafone Red Bundles
- Figure 17: Telefonica: Market Positioning Map, Q4 2012
- Figure 18: US market in transition towards greater competition
- Figure 19: Voice ARPU at AT&T, fixed and mobile
- Figure 20: Industry Value is Concentrated at the Interfaces
- Figure 21: Telco 2.0™ ‘two-sided’ telecoms business model