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The Trend Toward Unified Communications Continues

David ByrdInfonetics just released their latest growth tracking numbers for unified communications (UC). The growth in the enterprise segment was up 27 percent for 1Q14 over 1Q13. For a business or service provider such as ANPI, this is very good news. But several other findings are also worth noting.

PBX sales were down for the same period by 8 percent and, when measured against 4Q13, they were down 8 percent as well. This downward growth contradicts Eastern Management Group’s assessment that the overall PBX market is north of $40 billion and expected to continue growing through 2018. Diane Meyers, Infonetics analyst, explained the declining trend by commenting, “Businesses hold off new PBX purchases and invest, instead, in unified communications applications.”

I do not necessarily disagree that some enterprise customers may be delaying PBX purchases, and I don’t have any data that disputes the Eastern Management Group’s assertions of growth in future PBX sales and upgrades. However, I believe that most PBX forecasts are more optimistic than what the market seems to be indicating, including those examining enterprise purchases.

Cloud computing and stronger UC offerings — with improved availability, features, ease of integration, security, mobility and more — continue to influence buyer’s decisions. Cloud solutions are supplanting PBX purchases at SMBs and even enterprises. Whereas an enterprise may maintain PBXs to support its larger offices, increasingly cloud-based services support satellite offices and remote workers.

However, I do concede that an enterprise will have very different criteria for the augmentation of their telephony and collaboration systems than SMBs. So, it is good that, even with the potential for delayed capex spending, opex spending for applications that can improve productivity or save money continues. Overall, the UC market was valued at $22.8 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $61.9 billion in 2018, growing at a CAGR of 15.7 percent from 2012 to 2018, according to Transparency Market Research.

Numbers from Infonetics show there was a 13 percent year-over-year gain in UC and hosted PBX service revenue in 2013, with total of $68 billion in revenue for both business and residential VoIP and UC services. According to a Point Topic report, in 1Q13, the U.S. had 34 million VoIP subscribers. This is important because, as business owners gain experience using VoIP at home, hosted UC gains credibility as a replacement for premise-based solutions.

David Byrd is chief marketing officer at ANPI and leads marketing programs for SMBs, enterprises and carriers. Prior to joining the company, Byrd was chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales at Broadvox where he built a nationally recognized channel partner program and award-winning SIP product offering.


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