Three factors have come together to drive adoption of mobile unified communications: end users looking to change or upgrade their telecom services; the realization by the channel – the service providers and reseller community – that mobile UC is a way to differentiate and increase revenue in an increasingly competitive marketplace; and thirdly, the evolution of the technology itself, giving all parties involved far greater options and at a lower entry point.
Let’s look at each of these factors in more detail. Businesses have become more mobile-centric and will continue to do so. More than 38 percent of the global workforce was mobile in 2016, according to Strategy Analytics (News - Alert), and a recent Deloitte study found that 77 percent of millennials want great mobile connectivity. So, there is a natural demand for telecom services that are built more around a mobile workforce, particularly as legacy equipment and services reach a natural end-of-life. There is also a growing realization that there are more flexible business models and cloud-based services available: businesses have already adopted these across various parts of their operations, so why not apply cloud-based technology to telecoms too?
Another driver for change looms in the background: over the next few years, many of Europe’s PTTs will be switching off PSTN and ISDN lines. BT (News- Alert) has said that it will cease to sell ISDN by 2025, with other European incumbents indicating that they will do the same. That means existing customers will have to find alternatives. Of course, incumbents can simply offer replacement IP-based services and there may be no visible transition for the user, but equally, the disruption to the market will create significant opportunities for new market approaches. While the switch-off date may not be imminent, the reality is that any enterprise customer wanting to change telecom services in the next couple of years should be looking at options that will work for years to come.
These firms can now evolve into mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), offering a variety of native, fixed mobile convergence (FMC) and unified communications (UC) services. They can do this without having the overhead associated with ownership of network assets, because cloud-based technology gives them the option to ‘hire’ telecom platforms, or ‘platform-as-a-service’. Service providers with existing SIP trunks and data networking can also bring those over to the new breed of mobile UC services.
This is also good news for business users, because via cloud-based mobile communications services, as they can have access to far more flexible and sophisticated services than previously possible. Nor is this just theory: witness the experience of early adopters, such as Elisa and its customers in Finland, where ‘mobile first’ has been successfully implemented across hundreds of thousands of users.
Again, users are arguably ahead of much of the industry in terms of their ‘mobile thinking’. Our personal mobile devices have evolved dramatically in the past decade, with many of us having multiple apps and services accessible from one device. Until now, most of that has been very much consumer – rather than business – focused, with sales driven from the bottom-up (unlike the business market, where telecom services are generally top-down). OTT apps have been developed primarily as freemium silos. That is changing, not least because consumer mobile margins are now so squeezed that business mobile is the next battleground. Plus, the technology has caught up: good mobile coverage is ubiquitous in many markets and, while indoor coverage may be a challenge, it can be overcome using repeaters or simply switching the mobile service to WiFi.
With mobile UC, users can benefit from a far more integrated customer experience, such as just one voicemail across all services and devices, and the mobile number can be managed just as any other PBX (News - Alert) extension. There can also be seamless integration with CRM and other enterprise-wide applications, such as collaboration solutions enabling Visio conference services on mobile devices. New advances mean that they can be offered a ‘one touch’ experience, without having to constantly switch what they are viewing, going through multiple manual actions, or logging in repeatedly.
Another development that is expected to be attractive to users is ‘presence control’. Rather than availability being dictated by email calendars and other apps that weren’t developed with real-time flexibility in mind, users can manage their presence and share their status via their devices. For instance, they can have calls go straight to voicemail, converted to email messages, or forwarded to a colleague. Team members can instantly see each other’s availability, too.
With telephony-style services becoming a core part of the IT infrastructure, rather than an afterthought, resellers and service providers finally have real ability to upsell all kinds of enterprise apps and thus increase revenue. One of the key trends we are likely to see is verticalization, in order to differentiate service packages. For instance, hotels traditionally have two systems: one for guest rooms and one for the front-desk and back-room operations. With the latest generation of UC, hotels can have just one system and furthermore, the provider could opt to only charge them for a service when a room is in use. Add in mobility to the mix and it leads to a whole new world.
Mobile unified communications is going to transform the way people communicate, collaborate and work, with benefits for everyone involved: end users, vendors, service providers and resellers.