It seems as though every other month a new “hot” communication application emerges, begging to have itself heard among the others in what is now a mature and increasingly crowded space. Often the new application is a slight variation or reconfiguration of an existing one. For examples, is there a fundamental difference between the act of texting someone and using WhatsApp?
Nevertheless, one thing is glaringly obvious. As an ever increasing number of different communication methods/apps and devices are being used daily, businesses need a way to organise and manage these varied channels. What is the point in having all these wonderful ways of talking to one another, if so many of the messages slip through the net? Unified Communications (UC) was born out of a need for data convergence. The convergence that is occurring in technology generally in a world where your phone, computer, and tablet are one device is reflected in telecommunications.
We all know this but it’s worth repeating. Pulling in and centralising these often disparate communication streams can have tremendous benefits for so many types of businesses. More companies are starting to realise the improvements in the customer experience it can bring. Thus, a growing number of companies, big and small, are taking up the UC solution to streamline their own operations.
The Growth of Unified Communications
UC is a burgeoning market but predictions by IDC are that it is set to grow from its current worldwide value of $26.2bn to as much as $38bn by 2016. Driven by changes in the way businesses function and deliver services, UC providers are being pushed to develop elegant solutions to meet these needs and expectations in good time.
In a separate report, Grand View Research predicted that the market value of UC would hit a staggering $75.81bn by 2020, an increase of over 168%, and one which few other business focussed industries will be able to compete with. PWC went as far as to say they expected to see 100% penetration of UC in companies by the year 2020.
Whichever way you look at it, most research is pointing to same conclusions. UC is forging an important position in the business sector, and one that is growing briskly. So don’t be surprised to see UC as one of the hottest and most discussed topics in technology over the coming years.
The UK’s Leaders in UC
Leading research agency, Gartner, published their Magic Quadrant report in August 2014, which analysed on premises UC solutions, with results for UC as a Service (UCaaS) published separately. The report documented the world leaders in the field, which were Microsoft, Cisco, Mitel and Avaya.
However, the UC market is characterised by a number of players of varying strengths and sizes, each with their own unique slants/features in terms of their UC offerings. From visionaries like IBM to the challengers Alcatel-Lucent, and finally the niche players like Exponential-e.
The niche players in particular are forging a strong path in the industry, offering comprehensive UC services and solutions that are just as effective and in most case, more affordable than the larger and more established players.
The Market Drivers of Unified Communications
Among the many benefits that UC brings to the table, there are a few key areas which are undoubtedly driving the market forward at a rapid pace. Looking closely at the driving forces behind UC in Britain today can provide valuable insight into what the current and future trends may be, and how they are likely to affect the future of this technology:
- Increased Availability of High Speed Internet – The availability of high speed home internet grows rapidly every year. According to the ONS, in 2012, 30% of households were using fibre optic or cable connections, which rose to 42% in 2013. By 2014, an incredibly impressive 91% of the UK household internet connections were via fixed broadband. In addition, more than 87% of the UK’s population already has access to 4G services, with a view from network providers to increase this to 98% by the end of 2015.
- Increases in the use of the ‘Cloud as a Service’ (CaaS) Model – The most effective UC solutions are going to be those which are internet based, so the natural and most logical progression is to host all of a business’s communications in the Cloud. Greater acceptance of the CaaS model among small and large companies will enable cloud based UC to become the standard, the norm. Thus, moving it away from the expensive and unreliable in house hardware approach.
- Growth in Mobile Workforces – O2 recently published research indicating that approximately two thirds of British businesses expected 30% more of their workers to become mobile, in response to the demand for businesses to be more agile and flexible. 72% of companies were reported to be planning overhauls of their communications infrastructure, with the majority (85%) focussing on flexible working.
Current and Future Trends
A view to the future of UC predicts many trends. From an increase uptake in the solution within the SME sector to Asia and Europe increase their uptake within the UC market; the growth of the solution is not going to slow doing any time soon. Naturally with the growth in implementation of UC across a variety of sectors and marketplaces, confidence in it will grow and alongside this the technology will evolve and integration will improve.