We recently hosted a roundtable looking at the future of mobile unified communications (UC). The participants — our CEO Stijn Nijhuis, service providers and industry analyst organisation The Cavell Group — covered where they are seeing mobile UC being deployed, where it can add value, challenges to be addressed, and how they see it evolving.
The first focus was on how mobile UC has (or is being) adopted across the region. The panel reflected on the experience of the Nordics, including Finland, where there are few fixed phones and have not been for some time. This more mature UC market now uses the technology for contact centre type applications, with agents using their mobile phones and headsets to answer customer queries.
The team also discussed how mobile unified contact is beginning to grow in Germany and the Netherlands, where it has become normal for PBX cloud seats to be sold with mobile included. All panellists agreed that Spain is a fast-growing market. While slow to date, the UK is expected to accelerate rapidly over the next two years, according to Cavell.
That view was echoed by a British service provider who said, “Today we have about 80% of our micro-business customers going straight to mobile, putting their fixed lines on mobile. As the UX improves, that number can reach 90 or 95%”. Another commentator shared a way in which his organisation has improved the UX: “We’ve built a customer portal for onboarding with the help of Enreach’s API. Users set up everything on their computers and then move to their mobiles.”
One commentator quoted research finding that 40% of organisations who provided handsets to employees did so to enforce compliance requirements. This makes sense: in tightly regulated markets, such as financial services, fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) is perfect for mandatory call recording.
Of course, collaboration is an integral part of true UC, so the panel next debated what that means for different types of users. “Take, for example, an electrical contracting business, whereby most people are on the road, and they may not use Teams, they may use their mobiles to collaborate in another way”.
One contributor pointed out that full fixed mobile convergence (FMC) allows integration of mobile phone numbers into CRMs and other technologies used for business processes. The fact that business users can have both their professional and private identities supported on the same SIM was also discussed: something which has long been successful in the Netherlands, with the relevant call line identification (CLI) presented when dialling a call.
In line with having a choice of personas from the same device, presence — or reachability — was identified as having growing importance, enabling users to be present when and how they prefer. As one service provider said, “We are seeing about 30 to 40 per cent of our new business customers wanting to use mobile to separate their business and personal lives. Disconnecting is a big pain point for small businesses: they don’t want a work call at 10 am; they want it to go to a fixed-line with a professional greeting.”
The panel moved from opportunities to challenges service providers face when delivering mobile services. The need for better regulation around market competition was also raised, making it sometimes problematic for providers to achieve fair pricing. Service providers must also ensure that sales teams have the skills to sell FMC and UC and structure contracts appropriately. The panel agreed on the need to think about customers beyond typical knowledge workers and address the specific needs of vertical market users more effectively. Finally, variable cellular network quality and access to new handsets remain a challenge across the board.
While the panel participants agreed that the road ahead would not be easy for everyone, the majority consensus was that selling mobile UC and FMC presents significant new avenues for service providers today and in the future. We are moving towards a world of converged contact, internally and externally, blending communication, collaboration and productivity regardless of device, network or location. Mobile is critical to that evolution. Now is the time to get on board.