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The evolution of enterprise telephony: Prepare UC for mobile endpoints

While desk phones remain viable, the evolution of the UC endpoint is inevitable. Enterprise telephony must incorporate mobile devices.

The enterprise IP telephony (IPT) market has enjoyed a resurgence in the last year: 46% of companies are growing their IPT deployments, up from 32% in 2011. But as deployments grow, the nature of implementation is changing.

The UC endpoint is evolving

Many IT leaders say they are no longer keen on making large capital investments to replace perfectly working digital phones with IP phones; VoIP phones are perceived as adding little new value and often entail significant up-front costs that require provisioning network infrastructure to support Power over Ethernet (PoE). Meanwhile, mobile phone usage is exploding, with 66% of companies reporting increased spend on mobile devices and services. As smartphones and tablets proliferate in the enterprise, IT managers are seeing an uptick in end-user demand to integrate these devices into enterprise telephony and unified communications services. Nearly 30% of companies are already deploying mobile phone UC clients.

At the same time, there are more ways for workers to communicate and collaborate: New UC desktop clients -- incorporating voice, video, messaging and conferencing -- extend access into business applications such as CRM and ERP. These allow workers to collaborate directly in the context of business process applications. Consider a salesperson who can dial a client directly from the CRM application, rather than have to turn to a desktop phone and enter a series of numbers, then manually log the call in the customer account record.

More on the evolution of enterprise telephony

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Preparing your enterprise for mobile telephony

As the communications environment changes, so do the challenges. IT architects extending enterprise telephony to mobile and desktop worlds need to plan for the following:

  • Performance management: Offices without broad Wi-Fi deployments or with dead spots or weak carrier signals may require implementation of cellular repeaters or small cell access points to improve quality. For softphones, delivering acceptable quality means prioritizing the soft client over other PC processes and having insight into PC performance to troubleshoot call quality issues.
  • Wi-Fi bandwidth: Unfortunately, Nemertes Research has heard of far too many cases of companies that discover insufficient wireless WAN capacity for supporting mobile voice and video only after rolling out UC clients for mobile devices and laptops. Make sure you provide sufficient Wi-Fi bandwidth and services that can prioritize voice and video before you roll out mobile and soft clients.
  • Intersection with desktop virtualization: Over half of all organizations are using desktop virtualization for at least some endpoints today, while more than 70% plan to increase deployments over the next two years. In order to support soft clients on a virtual desktop, you must ensure that you can locally encapsulate voice and video, rather than trunk it back to the data center. Make sure you choose desktop virtualization strategies that support localized rich media processing.
  • E-911: Enabling mobile and soft clients means that users can make calls from anywhere in your organization, or perhaps even in the world. However, many U.S. states require operators of multiline telephone systems (i.e., PBXs) to provide location tracking for 911 services, so that emergency personnel can locate callers. Strategies here include sending 911 calls out over the cellular network (which can triangulate a caller's location) or choosing solutions that use Wi-Fi access points to track user location in real-time.

UC planners should realize that the nature of their deployments is changing. Over the next three-to-five years it's likely that you will deploy more softphones and mobile clients than desktop phones. Proactively plan to provide performance management, sufficient bandwidth and wireless coverage, support for virtual desktops, and location awareness to ensure success.

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