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April 22, 2009

In Tough Economic Times, Service Providers Can Uncover 'Untapped Opportunities' in Audio Conferencing

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

In case you didn’t notice, the audio conferencing market is on fire right now. Companies everywhere are slashing their travel budgets to cut costs in light of the current global recession; but at the same time, these companies haven’t lost sight of the importance of holding “live” meetings with customers and partners, as well as enabling tight collaboration between various divisions, departments, and individuals within their organizations.

As a result, enterprises and small and medium size businesses (SMBs) alike are investing in conferencing services to facilitate these essential, real-time, multipoint interactions. Recent industry research shows that the audio conferencing market is growing at a 28 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and will soon surpass 50 billion minutes of use annually.

Service providers are now realizing that this growing market presents an opportunity. Those which don’t yet have audio conferencing in their portfolio are realizing that they have the necessary basic network infrastructure in place -- it’s just a question of what type of conferencing service they want to deliver and how to go about deploying it. Those which are already offering legacy conferencing services are no doubt watching their competitors with envy as they roll out IP-based services.

Obviously rolling out a new conferencing service, or upgrading to an IP-based system, is easier said than done. There are a lot of new entrants in the market and competition is fierce. In fact, reports show that competition is already resulting in a “flattening” of audio conferencing revenues – that is to say, the cost of these services, whether premium or entry-level, is coming down, rather than going up. As such, most services providers are looking for ways to deploy conferencing services as affordably as possible, preferably using as much existing infrastructure as possible, and with little to no service disruptions.

Service providers operating legacy networks face the greatest challenge. Sure they can go ahead and install a Time Division Multiplex (TDM) conference bridge and get started, if they haven’t already, but the problem is, it will be extremely difficult for these providers to deliver advanced features and functionality to their customers, due to the limitations of the TDM bridge. And in this increasingly cut-throat market, service providers must be able to deliver advanced features if they are to differentiate themselves.

Service providers, therefore, must accelerate their adoption of next generation conferencing solutions if they are to compete effectively. Today’s IP-based conferencing platforms not only deliver the advanced functionality and feature sets business customers demand, they also have the added benefit of reducing operational costs. Today’s open IP-based systems typically cost less, save space, consume less power, and require less maintenance – in essence, they’re a total win-win for the service provider.

An IP media server is a sound investment for any service provider seeking to deliver advanced conferencing services. These servers perform real-time processing of media streams in VoIP architectures. They can reduce the cost per conferencing port by a factor of four and cut physical space down to one-tenth of TDM-based conference bridge solutions.

These new systems not only lower operating costs, but also enable service providers to deliver new capabilities, such as integrated voice/Web conferencing features and “click to conference” capabilities, enabling their customers to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

With these systems, not only can smaller service providers with legacy networks rapidly roll out advanced new conferencing services, but established service providers with existing conferencing services can also grow their market opportunities, and wow their existing customers, by migrating to an all-IP, standards-based system. This will enable these established players to improve the scalability and economics of their audio conferencing infrastructures, while delivering increased value to their customers.

If you’re a service provider, and you’re seriously considering rolling out a new audio conferencing service, or upgrading your current service, you should consider attending the upcoming Webinar, “Untapped Opportunities in Audio Conferencing,” sponsored by RadiSys and TMCnet.

In this informative Webinar, executives, VoIP application developers, system integrators, product managers and network architects will learn:

--Industry growth trends in audio conferencing services
--Economic and service benefits of VoIP audio conferencing architectures
--Opportunities in offering new, differentiated collaboration services into untapped markets

Join Ray Adensamer (News - Alert), senior product marketing manager, RadiSys, and Marc Beattie, managing partner and principal analyst, Wainhouse Research, who will thoroughly explore the opportunities emerging for next-generation audio conferencing services.

Specifically, Beattie will provide background on the current $4 billion global market -- why it’s growing, what is changing, and what to expect next -- while Adensamer will discuss what service providers are deploying to realize the new market opportunity, why it’s different than what has been deployed in the past, and what new services can create a differentiated offering at dramatically lower costs.

To register, click here.

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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