When unified messaging (UM) burst on the IT scene a few years ago, the response was less than enthusiastic. But with hosted IP telephony (HIP) on its way in the next couple of years, the Yankee Group on Friday released a report that says it sees renewed potential for this application and that telcos need to adopt a UM strategy in order to stay competitive.
"One of the things we found out is that the technology (for HIP) is finally mature. It’s become more of a delivery challenge as opposed to a technology challenge (as it was) in the past," Daniel Klein, analyst with the communication, network and infrastructure group at Boston-based Yankee Group said. "We think that there’s going to be a tremendous amount of momentum offering services such as UM."
HIP was formerly referred to as IP Centrex but the term has been changed by the industry to HIP because of the negative associations with Centrex, Klein said. Traditionally Centrex offerings were restrictive in geographic distance and expensive because of moves, adds and changes.
"HIP relieves a lot of that because all of you have to do is take your IP phone and plug it into your Internet jack, and the phone automatically registers itself so you can move as much as you want, and you can self-administer those moves so you don’t have to rely on a service provider," he said. "The cost to moves, adds and changes in an HIP environment can be reduced 90 percent."
Klein said while in the past telcos competed in price point, the pendulum is going to swing towards competition in services with the winner being most able to attract customers with useful and innovative services.
Klein said Canadian and American telcos, including Bell Canada, will be starting to roll out HIP offerings in the next 12 to 24 months.
In the past when it came to offering UM, Klein said telcos faced logistical challenges integrating wireless, local, long-distance and Internet networks -- all must collaborate to offer UM -- but these issues are starting to get resolved in IP environments.
John Seliga, vice-president, IP solutions at Telus in Calgary, agreed that the uptake of IP telephony would further the adoption of apps like UM, but said customers aren’t interested in UM as a standalone service. Telus currently offers UM and Seliga said the response has been underwhelming.
"However with the advent and the maturity of (IP) offerings…I think it’s far more likely that you’re going to see a greater uptake in applications such as UM as services like IP Centrex or other IP telephony services are adopted by the marketplace."
He said he would expect to see comparable uptake of IP telephony and UM over the next few years.
"If you can integrate your voice mail and your e-mail and other forms of messaging along with your IP telephony services, then absolutely I think you’re going to see a parallel behavior in terms of market traction."
Telus said IP telephony will start to be rolled out in some Canadian locations later this year, and said HIP would follow shortly.
Klein said the vendors responsible for these HIP solutions often include UM in their offerings and that would also help increase uptake of UM by companies.
Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks dominate the HIP market with products for old legacy systems.
In order for UM to reach its full potential, Klein offered some tips for the industry. He recommended that carriers and vendors work together to market UM, and that equipment vendors ensure their technology is mature, and meets carrier-class requirements.
Klein said the target market for HIP encompasses everyone from the small- to medium-size enterprise (SME) space to large enterprises and small and home office (SOHO) users.