Smartphone apps were introduced to the world in the summer of 2008; 3G bandwidth became available around the same time. Both of these developments led in a straight line to the creation of over-the-top services provided by operators that do not pay for your mobile data plan or your mobile device but leverage both to generate revenue by providing voice, collaboration and, with reliable bandwidth capacity, even video. The controlling idea is that since VoIP allows voice over data and the smartphone (and tablet) provides a viable/ubiquitous tool for communication, communications service providers really must consider placement of an app on these devices a priority to best serve their consumers.
Today, the next step in broadband speed is in production – 4G – frequently called 4G LTE (News - Alert) or just LTE, depending on the speed of the connection offered. These connections are approximately 10 times faster than 3G, with download speeds of 5 to 12mbps and upload speeds of 2 to 5mbps. In both cases, these speeds are plenty fast, even on the lower end, to carry voice calls, video calls, collaboration tools, and other advanced forms of unified communication.
My goal in this article is to note the change explained above and to explore how this change to wireless broadband Internet could impact the hosted PBX (News - Alert) market over the next several years. There is a parallel change to IMS, which is an important part of the capability of mobile operators to provide richer media on these broadband networks. I will address that important development impacting business communications in a later column.
Unified Communications (News - Alert) Grows Quickly
The idea is that all real-time communications, including voice, video, chat, collaboration and messaging, to your mobile device become viable with improved broadband access from your mobile device. With 4G LTE users starting to proliferate, it is time, if you are going to serve the hosted PBX market, to develop a strategy that will allow your customers to use your services on their mobile devices. The bandwidth will support the types of communication services envisioned in the Rich Communications Services standards proposed by the GSM Association.
Mobile Phones Become Office Phones
One of the advantages of VoIP since inception has been the concept of one number. Service providers have sold us on the simplicity of using a single phone number, one that can reach us wherever we happen to be through a combination of call forwarding on the PSTN to using the ubiquity of the Internet to catch us on our laptops and elsewhere via softphones with SIP clients. It is a compelling capability that allows us to stay plugged in and, I would wager, used today by almost every reader of this article. Business PBX services, in particular, use this feature to support remote workers and dispersed call centers. Mobile broadband, coupled with the smartphone, appears set to remove one challenging variable in the pursuit of one number simplicity by removing the complexity of many devices-phones-soft clients simultaneous ringing and registering with a one phone approach. Already, many households have given up their landline phones. I believe that when 4G LTE provides coverage areas that are sufficiently broad and reliable, hosted PBX operators will leverage these ever-present accessories as primary office phones.
Mobile Operators Compete for Hosted PBX Business
As mobile phone networks are re-architected to support VoLTE and richer unified communications services over data, it is inevitable that these services will be made available as part of the base functionality of smartphones. The mobile network transformation projects currently under way – and set to grow exponentially in the coming half decade – coupled with the aforementioned network advances will bring mobile network operators and MVNOs squarely into competition with hosted PBX service providers. Mobile operators will have the advantage of serving business communications services natively (without an app) on the smartphone.
As a service provider, there are large-scale transformations in the business communications industry that both threaten your business and provide an amazing opportunity for growth. Reliable mobile broadband is another one of these threats/opportunities. With the thoughts and projections presented above, there are a number of logical conclusions – 1. The time is now to accelerate the growth of your service provider business from voice PBX provider to unified communications’ provider 2. Desktop phones are still required but are becoming secondary to the functionality you need to put onto smartphones and computers. Future-proof your service offering by including new technology (again!); and 3. Maybe it is time to become an MVNO to keep pace with the evolution of service delivery.
Micah Singer is CEO of VoIP Logic (News - Alert) (www.voiplogic).
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino