I often remind equipment vendors that to sell to telcos they need to make two sales: First, sell the equipment the carrier thinks it wants; and second, sell the equipment that the carrier actually wants once it gets around to figuring out what its customers want. In other words, carriers often seem to be uniquely out of touch when it comes to understanding marketplace needs.
Never has this been more true than in the case of VoIP services. Most of the IT executives I've spoken with say they want their carriers to offer more than just TDM voice replacement when it comes to VoIP services.
Here's what IT execs are looking for - and not getting - from their service providers:
- Integration with QoS. One of the biggest challenges companies have when rolling out VoIP services lies in ensuring the services will work effectively over the existing network. Integrated QoS offerings that guarantee priority for delay- and jitter-sensitive voice traffic, and let IT execs customize prioritizations for other apps, would be a plus.
- Integration with messaging services. Convergence really means eradicating the distinction between voice and other types of communication. Companies increasingly are viewing their e-mail, voice mail, and instant-messaging archives as facets of the same service - but carriers seem to think of voice mail as a stand-alone offering that has nothing to do with the other two. An offering that combined voice mail, e-mail and secure IM would pack a punch.
- VoIP security services. You've probably heard about the threat of SPIT - spam over IP telephony. SPIT goes beyond simple telemarketing, because the low relative cost of IP telephony could drive an order-of-magnitude increase in unwanted calls. (Imagine receiving 500 voice mails from those guys in Uganda soliciting money every morning, and you'll get the picture.)
Add to that concerns about viruses, privacy and the impact of denial-of-service attacks on the voice infrastructure, and there's the potential for a coming catastrophe in VoIP security. Interestingly, carriers have the upper hand when it comes to tackling many of these issues - if only they'd create offerings that play to that strength.
- Integrated company-wide offerings are important. IT executives don't want to have to deal with multiple individual carriers. "BellSouth has a great offering for Nashville, as does SBC in Chicago. But if I have to deal with five vendors to provide IP Centrex, it's going to be a mess," says a telecom manager for a manufacturing firm. "It has to be a national carrier to make it worthwhile."
Bottom line: If any of these offerings resonate, push your carriers to provide them. Don't assume they know what you want - see my point above about carriers being uniquely out of touch.