Hosted PBX providers operate in what’s long been a price-driven market, but they’re increasingly required to provide more than just a dial tone, including integration with broader platforms like unified communications (UC).
The competitive landscape for hosted PBX is being impacted by consolidation, with smaller providers merging to become more competitive with larger UCaaS providers, and UCaaS providers buying companies to bolster what they offer. We spoke with analysts and a member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board to find out what it takes to succeed in hosted PBX.
While the newer, smaller players in the space are continuing to see aggressive growth curves, it is not at the expense of the larger, established players as they continue to experience growth as well, said Julie Dzubay, WTG’s vice president of sales operations, and editorial advisory board member.
“The service providers in the hosted PBX space continue to roll out innovative enhancements to the services they offer,” she said. “The flexibility of having a dynamic service hosted in the cloud versus static equipment sitting on the customer’s site provides an environment where providers can develop new features and functionality, and quickly roll it out to their entire client community. Early adopters to hosted PBX service have embraced the faster pace of innovation and look for their hosted PBX providers to continue adding functionality that drives efficiencies and a better customer experience for their clients.”
Raul Castanon-Martinez, 451 Research’s senior analyst of workforce collaboration, said there is an increased emphasis on AI-enabled capabilities which, together with a tight integration with business applications, aim to provide knowledge workers with the means to optimize their work.
“This includes features such as intelligent transcriptions that provide a summary with action items from a meeting, for example, or analytics that help us understand how we interact with other team members and the impact this has on team productivity,” he said.
Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates, said there will always be exits by players who can’t make enough money doing this, and there will always be new entries since the barrier to entry remains low.
“Since it’s hard to build loyalty, a lot of SMBs will change horses when a better deal comes along, and there will always be local players in every market,” he said.
Based on feedback and recent news reports, we’ve compiled a list, in alphabetical order, of 20 hosted PBX providers that are making the most of the current competitive landscape and charting success. We intentionally made the list different from our CP List of UCaaS providers, including as many providers as possible that weren’t on that list.
Arnold cited 3CX, an open-platform PBX for Windows, Linux and the cloud, as a successful provider. It also is a 100% channel company with 250,000 customers globally.
Cost is a big factor in hosted VoIP, he said.
“Offering rich features is always a good move,” he said. “Aside from price, though, the biggest factor would be service reliability and quality of experience. These offerings are almost always OTT, and many cannot match the … service provided by incumbents. So, the closer they can get to having carrier-grade/business-grade quality, the more effective they’ll be.”
Tim Banting, Ovum’s principal analyst of workspace services (collaboration), along with Arnold and Dzubay. cited 8×8 as an successful provider,
“With the move to software-based solutions, voice is seen more as a utility, albeit a vital one,” Banting said. “Indeed, customer’s expectations have changed — we are seeing customers looking at more integrative suites that encompass voice, video, conferencing, messaging and, in some cases, customer care/contact center functionality.”
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