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Enterprise VoIP spending up, UC pros demand advanced mobility features

UC pros are deploying more sophisticated enterprise VoIP endpoints and making advanced PBX features around mobility a purchasing requirement.

When enterprise Voice over IP (VoIP) underpins unified communications (UC) deployments, a phone call is no longer just a phone call: It's a voice session facilitated by presence, elevated from IM, augmented with video conferencing and extended to a mobile device. Recent trends in enterprise telephony spending indicate that UC pros are headed down this path by deploying more sophisticated endpoints and advanced enterprise VoIP services that focus on mobility.

"Vendors have absolutely been selling a lot more endpoints and a lot more higher-end endpoints," said Diane Myers, directing analyst of VoIP and IMS at Infonetics Research. "Above and beyond that, I think we see advanced features and capabilities coming up more and more as key requirements—particularly around mobility."

Despite a sequential 2.3% drop from the first quarter, overall PBX spending—which Infonetics defines as the PBX, software licenses and endpoints—was up by 3.9% in the second quarter of this year, as compared to last year. Internet Protocol (IP) PBXs represented the fastest-growing segment of the market last quarter, with year-over-year spending up 10.6%, Infonetics reported.

Avaya, the market leader in revenue for the past three quarters, has found that customers are "looking to leverage the technology in a different way," according to Nancy Maluso, vice president of UC at Avaya. Whereas the first wave of enterprise VoIP adoption focused on IT needs and cost savings around SIP trunking, customers are now looking to deploy advanced enterprise VoIP services to meet business needs around mobility and disaster recovery (DR), she said. Additionally, Avaya customers that only deployed enterprise VoIP in the core have pushed those investments out to the edge with more IP endpoints, Maluso said.

"The number of lines [we sell] isn't changing, but the average spend and type of spend is," she said.

Cisco Systems led the market last quarter in the number of lines shipped—1.79 million versus Avaya's 1.72 million—and has recently reported two- to threefold increases in sales of video-enabled IP phones, Myers said. Standard IP desk phone shipments show no signs of slowing either, according to Tom Puorro, director of product management at Cisco.

"I've sold more IP phones in the last couple years than ever, and [the pace of those sales] is accelerating," Puorro said. "People still buy them."

Mobility now a requirement in enterprise VoIP purchases

UC pros are also seeking advanced enterprise VoIP services for mobile devices as users demand more UC support for smartphones and tablets, whether those devices are corporate-liable or  part of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative, Myers said.  

"People want to be able to extend the features and capabilities [of the PBX] for their employees and enable them on a mobile device," she said. "That's a growing requirement, and that's not going away."

Enterprises' mobility requirements have advanced beyond support for find me/follow me services and voice over Wi-Fi, according to Mark Bissell, director of product marketing at Cisco. Instead, there is a "huge demand" for enterprise VoIP services that integrate with other mobile UC applications and support Android and iOS mobile operating systems, he said.

If you're an enterprise, there's no better time to be shopping around and getting bids [for PBXs] because it is so competitive.

Diane Myers
Directing Analyst, Infonetics Research

"A lot of that—the single-number reach—has been around, quite frankly, for a decade," Bissell said. "But now I think the more intelligent, more powerful endpoint devices—the tablets, the smartphones—have taken people away from [communicating in] the traditional PC environment ... and we're starting to see the explosion of mobile computing. [Enterprises] are looking to adapt to and integrate the communications experience into those interfaces."

Mobile enterprise VoIP services may have taken off with early adopters, but most Avaya customers did not deploy them when they first became available, said Avaya's Maluso. But integrating those services with mobile UC applications has encouraged more mainstream adoption and adoption of more advanced mobile services, she said.

"In traditional industries like utilities, hospitals and manufacturing, telephony was not really strategic ... because their work doesn't happen on the phone," Maluso said. "But what they're learning is—in the case of utilities—that video [calls] will help them because if they can't get to a distant location and see what's going on, seeing the water main is more useful than calling [someone at] the water main."

UC and enterprise VoIP integration calls for simpler systems

Although enterprises are buying more advanced enterprise VoIP services, there's a parallel demand for more simplified front- and back-end systems, Myers said.  The complexity of integrating traditional enterprise VoIP services with advanced desktop and mobile UC applications is driving that demand, she said. The economic downturn also continues to take its toll on IT staffing, Myers added.

"People are absolutely looking for things that aren't complicated," she said. "I'm not talking about plug-and-play, but they want something that's relatively simple to use ... and they don't want to need a PhD to get it up and running."   

As a result of all of these trends and demands, the PBX market has become extremely competitive—to UC pros' advantage, Myers said.

"There's so much promotional action and bundling going on," she said. "If you're an enterprise, there's no better time to be shopping around and getting bids because it is so competitive. You're going to get a lot for your money ... and much more than a PBX."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, Senior News Writer.

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