These opportunities include offering individual UC components/applications as well as fully integrated UC solutions.
However, the challenge for vendors and system integrators is to demonstrate to customers the benefits of UC and its return on investment, as there is a lack of industry standards on its applications and solutions as well as successful case studies. Hosted UC solutions and cloud computing will help in overcoming the bottleneck of service adoption as they minimise the capital expenditure on UC infrastructure and IT spend.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (conferencing.frost.com), South African Unified Communications Market, finds that vendors in this market earned revenues of $60.0 million in 2009 and estimates this to reach $409.7 million in 2016.
"Outsourced contact centre services are driving the adoption of UC," notes Frost & Sullivan ICT Research Analyst Jiaqi Sun. "The demand for hosted UC applications will attract SMEs and SOHO users."
Outsourced contact centres are major areas for UC applications. They are focus areas for improving the quality of customer support services, which is increasingly considered as a key value-added service for telecommunications service providers.
At the same time, hosted UC solutions are poised to drive market growth as SME and SOHO customers boost their spending on UC solutions in the near future.
However, the lack of skilled labour looms as a major challenge to market development. The requirement of intensive on-the-job training is considered a major bottleneck for UC market growth, as the implementation and maintenance of UC systems require high levels of ICT expertise.
Legacy customer premise equipment also threatens market prospects by restraining system integration.
"Legacy infrastructure on customers' premises prevents businesses from deploying and integrating advanced and cost-effective UC applications," explains Sun. "This is due to the fact that some organisations will not benefit from improved voice and data communications as these businesses are small in scale."
Interoperability of different applications and systems poses yet another challenge for UC adoption. Although vendors have been seeking industry standards to align their hardware and software, system integration remains an issue when products of different vendors are connected on-site.
"The skills shortage in the South African ICT sector requires the government's engagement on continuous education," states Sun. "Such initiatives started a decade ago and are set to yield positive results in the near future."
Equally promisingly, legacy equipment is anticipated to gradually be replaced in educational institutions. Distance learning is becoming an effective tool to extend training to people who are otherwise constrained by their location.
"The government at all levels is migrating to the next generation IP telephony system, thereby reducing the issue of system integration related to legacy equipment," concludes Sun. "Moreover, the inconsistent standards of UC products are expected to change, as vendors demonstrate greater willingness to form partnerships with each other to bundle their competitive strengths."
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