The move away from legacy TDM technologies and toward IP-based communications (VoIP/SIP/MPLS) continues in earnest both in the WAN and the LAN. Businesses are taking advantage of the IP infrastructure offered by carriers at the access and transport levels for converged voice and data communications between locations, data centers and their customers and suppliers. At the same time, they are bringing these synergies down to the desktop and increasingly, mobile device with the implementation of IP-based telephony systems. This migration will continue to present an opportunity for channel partners, especially as businesses move beyond VoIP to unified communications, video collaboration and cloud services.
Market Opportunity. The global VoIP services market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent between 2011 and 2015, according to a June 2012 report from research firm TechNavio. One of the drivers for this adoption is the increasing use of SIP, the firm found. Meanwhile, IP MPLS VPNs also are expected to record a 7.1 percent CAGR globally during the 2011-2015 period, fueled by video conferencing, TechNavio said in April 2012. Finally, Cisco Systems Inc. said in its 2012 Visual Networking Index that business IP traffic will grow at a CAGR of 22 percent from 2011 to 2016, due mostly to more video communications in the enterprise.
Industry Predictions. Beyond enabling lower-cost voice and data, IP communications were widely viewed by analysts, providers and partners as critical to the evolution of corporate networks as platforms for over-the-top business productivity applications from unified communications and video collaboration to mobile integration and cloud services. The increasingly distributed and mobile workforce is driving demand for anywhere, any device access enabled by all-IP networks.
“VoIP and SIP are byproducts of the enterprise and SMB spaces migrating to all-IP-based network environments. As this migration path continues, we may very well see these IP-based environments hit the wireless space as well, especially with the advent of more robust LTE wireless networks.”
MicroCorp’s Brad Miehl
“SIP trunking will be bundled more prominently as an add-on to MPLS. Carriers recognize that this opens the door for new services and allows them to support HD-based offerings to businesses.”
J Arnold & Associates’ Jon Arnold
“The ability to securely conduct multipoint video conferencing with participants using any video endpoint from inside or outside the organization will further increase the use of video communications in the enterprise.”
Masergy’s Monty Ferdowski
Channel Opportunities. The biggest opportunity with IP communications generally is to help customers move to an end-to-end IP environment both for short-term cost savings and a future-proof platform. IP MPLS is the defacto standard for WAN and already is emerging as the preferred connection for cloud services, with the data center as another node on the network. In the access space SIP trunks are still a good price play over PRIs with savings that can justify expenditures on modern gear. Or, our panel said, partners have an opportunity to skip the replacement PBX and recommend hosted UC.
“The sluggish recovery still has businesses looking for ways to save money. … VoIP services are just one way businesses can experience an immediate return on investment.”
Novus’ Chris Meehan
“Once customers get comfortable with VoIP, channels can move them along the path to UC, where they can take full advantage of multimedia, real-time communications in an integrated environment. This also gives the channel a more solid entree into the emerging opportunities for video and mobility.”
J Arnold & Associates’ Jon Arnold
“The convergence of telecom and cloud services brings a huge opportunity to provide a single customer portal that manages and monitors every IP communications service on one easy-to-use platform.”
MegaPath’s Dan Foster
Channel Challenges. With any emerging opportunity come challenges. With IP communications, partners face several. For one, there is the temptation to focus only on cost savings, hastening commoditization of IP services. Meanwhile, VoIP and SIP still have technical challenges, namely around interoperability between provider and edge devices, making education and careful supplier selection key. The level of expertise required is only expected to ratchet up as IP communications grow more complex and require a more managed approach. As partner models evolve to address IP-based environments, competition between previously separate telecom and IT channels will increase.
“Current channels, now more accurately defined as MSPs, must form ongoing business relationships with customers and vendors, and offer the continuous support that demanding businesses require.”
Momentum Telecom’s Alan Creighton
“While manufacturers have worked very hard to make their products easier to install and operate, the knowledge required by the channel partner has increased significantly.”
Novus’ Chris Meehan
“VoIP is quickly become a commodity-like category, requiring greater research and understanding of product and provider differences.”
Broadvox’s Chris Gellos