A new entrant with the right strategic stuff may swoop into and dominate the US VoIP industry during the next five years, said Mike Matthews, head of product marketing at communications vendor Aculab.
That vendor may or may not be based in the US, or it may not have yet even formed, Matthews said during an industry panel at the recent Internet Telephony Conference in Florida.
I would suggest we are going to see a player, who many of us will not know the name of right now, become a key player in this space, Matthews said. We are ripe for a big player to fly in and rip this market to pieces because it’s very viable.
He cited Virgin Mobile, in the UK, which built an almost $1bn business without any infrastructure, as the elk of a competitor that could shake up the US VoIP scene. It could be more of a branding exercise than a technology exercise, Matthews said.
And as mobility is added to triple-play IP communication services, the opportunity to make a killing by bundling and marketing to target audiences will grow.
When you consider mobility as well . . . then you will have an interesting proposition, and all the permeations of that proposition, Matthews said. That is an opportunity to go out and do something different, from a marketing perspective rather than technology — and it may be from brand-new players.
After all, as VoIP and other IP communications become more ubiquitous, the industry boundaries of traditional networks will dissolve, said Matthews of UK-based Aculab. No longer would there be vendors in the enterprise space or carrier space, for example, but rather their technologies will be deployable in any network, he said.
Web services would help drive VoIP adoption going forward, said another panelist, Todd Landry, who is marketing VP at enterprise VoIP vendor Sphere Communications Inc, based in Illinois.
The real killer applications are not just a single application but almost any other business application inside an enterprise that can benefit from simplifying how IP is a communication with other people, Landry said.
The killer, I think, in opening that up is by aligning communications with SOA – service oriented architecture, Landry said. Building a communications app that binds systems in back-office business applications will be key, he said.
Another panelist scoffed at the notion of a killer app for the industry and said customization is what will sway enterprises to adopt VoIP.
The killer app is specific to individual businesses. But it’s really the ability to take all these technologies and make them operate as one, to make them accessible wherever you are, to make them accessible whatever device you have in your hand, said Michael Marchioni, director of product management at business telecom systems vendor Iwatsu America Inc.
For sure, the US industry is looking at mobile as its enterprise tipping point. But Marchioni said wireless WiFi and cellular VoIP phone prices need to fall in order to spur widespread adoption. While companies such as Symbol Technologies and SpectraLink currently sell enterprise wireless VoIP phones, they cost as much as $800, Marchioni pointed out.
You cannot find a business-ready WiFi handset available today, he said. I’m talking about what the average business owner is going to want to spend. For a WiFi handset, not necessarily a dual-mode phone, it’s in the hundreds of dollars.
The industry also currently lacks a mobile VoIP phone based on SIP, or session initiation protocol, Marchioni said. SIP is the forerunner to become the IP communications standard. Marchioni said it likely would just be a matter of time before wireless SIP-based VoIP phones are developed.
Aculab’s Matthews also said Microsoft’s re-entry into the VoIP space, after a couple of false starts, would likely be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
They’re refocused, he said. It will be very interesting to see how the marketing machine gets into gear. I see them in a very good position to . . . start to doing something really big.