According to research firm IDC, hosted IP voice services aren’t ready to challenge PBX “any time soon” for supremacy in the enterprise communications market, despite enjoying a steady increase in demand during the past two years.
Although the company believes hosted IP voice eventually will develop into “a compelling service option,” “a great deal of work” still needs to be done to improve the services. Even so, IDC expects the market for hosted IP voice services among U.S. businesses to reach nearly $456 million by the end of 2008.
However, it says current growth in the hosted IP voice market masks several challenges that the industry will continue to face for some time. “Some of the early implementations were flawed, leading to customer cancellations and botched deployments,” said Rebecca Swensen, research analyst/VoIP services at IDC. “Although there are plenty of examples of smooth implementations and satisfied customers, the stain of poor service hangs over hosted IP voice like a dark cloud.”
IDC believes lessons learned from these early deployments are a “painful but necessary” part of the adoption cycle as the hype and potential of a new service runs up against the reality of customer expectations. “Conversations with enterprise IT managers and service providers confirm that, while delivering quality VoIP via IP PBX is hard, delivering hosted IP voice is even harder,” it adds.
But some hold a different view of the marketplace. “In my view, hosted IP voice installation and implementation problems of the past have been corrected. The real shortfall of hosted IP voice growth has been due to lack of strong marketing support or in driving SMB demand on the part of the service providers,” comments Warren Williams, vice president of TelecomWeb news break sister program “InfoTrack for Enterprise Services.” “Additionally, a hosted IP voice sale takes a bit of sales effort, especially if a thorough job of showing TCO and ROI comparisons between hosted and premises-based solutions is involved. It’s also not clear if hosted-service providers with multiple communications solutions have incented their sales forces to position the hosted offer as the first recommendation. All of that being said, I believe the hosted IP voice service providers are on the cusp of vastly improving the outlook for this service.”
In separate but related news, Vocalocity, a provider of hosted VoIP services to micro enterprises (offices of fewer than 20 employees) says it has a new and improved version of its hosted PBX service: the VocalocityPBX 2.0. With the ability to plug in self-configuring VoIP phones, Vocalocity says all a business needs to do is select user preferences online and the new phone system is up and running in minutes, not hours or days.
The company claims micro enterprises that purchase the Vocalocity solution instantly improve the efficiency of their business and their employees while realizing a monthly cost savings of as much as 80 percent compared to traditional phone service.
The platform’s new features include voice mail to email, follow-me roaming, simultaneous ring and other capabilities “previously unaffordable” to the small business owner. VocalocityPBX 2.0 will be rolled out to new and existing customers, and the cost of the monthly service remains unchanged. Customers also can continue to use the IP phones they already own.