Integration with other unified communications (UC) applications (chat, presence, conferencing) and business applications such as CRM and ERP in communications-enabled business processes (CEBP) will provide the most opportunity for the hosted IP telephony market, which is being challenged by the economic downturn. These integrations will not only benefit end-users that are looking for a competitive edge, but also communication vendors and service providers that are hoping to increase market share and revenue.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (conferencing.frost.com), North American Hosted IP Telephony Service Markets, finds that there were close to one million installed hosted IP telephony lines at the end of 2008 and expects this number to grow to about 3.6 million lines in 2014.
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"Small businesses will continue to be attracted to hosted IP telephony offerings primarily for cost-efficient voice communications, although some of them will also choose a hosted offering for the ability to gain access to a complete UC package from a single provider," explains Frost & Sullivan Global Program Director Elka Popova. "Medium and large businesses will also appreciate the economies provided by hosted IP telephony, but will seek such solutions mostly so they can focus on core business processes and gain access to applications and capabilities that they can test without making a capital investment."
While integration with other applications can help the hosted IP telephony market plough ahead, significant technology enhancements to premise-based solutions and extensive private branch exchange (PBX) vendor channels present significant barriers to further market penetration. IP telephony vendors will have to develop astute channel strategies since most market participants are small, next-generation providers with limited geographic presence and service support capabilities, and with no established customer base or brand-name recognition.
Service providers should, therefore, seek to expand and diversify their channels and strengthen relationships; however, these moves will need to be based on specific portfolio requirements. Meanwhile, the low barriers to entry will cause the North American market to remain extremely fragmented. The incumbent local exchange carriers (LECs) are reluctant to grab larger market shares due to the fear of cannibalizing legacy service revenues and limited demand for next-gen hosted telephony services among their existing Centrex base.
The competitive landscape is also likely to become increasingly diverse with competitive LECs (CLECs), software as a service (SaaS)/hosted application providers, value-added resellers (VARs) and system integrators (SIs) competing for a share of a slowly growing market. In such a scenario, channel support will determine each provider's chances for success.
"In order to ensure extensive customer reach and superior customer support, service providers need to develop stronger relationships with various VARs, SIs, and agents that may include real estate companies, IT consultants, and moving companies," notes Popova. "Further, providers should seek to develop an eco-system of partnerships to jointly enhance market awareness and be able to offer customers a range of interoperable solutions and capabilities."
Telephony providers should cooperate with hosted contact center, email, customer relationship management (CRM), Web 2.0 and other communication and business application providers. Service providers may choose to adopt diverse business strategies. For instance, some may focus on businesses seeking inexpensive voice communication packages, while others may choose to target businesses that seek advanced communication solutions such as UC, where application integration provides considerable productivity benefits.
Providers could also take advantage of merger and acquisition opportunities based on complementary technologies, expertise or channels, since consolidation can help improve customer awareness, margins and the value proposition of hosted IP telephony.
North American Hosted IP Telephony Service Markets is part of the Enterprise Communications Growth Partnership Service program, which also includes research in the following markets: world enterprise telephony platforms, extending PBX functionalities to mobile devices, world unified communications platforms, and North American VoIP trunking service markets. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.
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North American Hosted IP Telephony Service Markets / N4F3