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Cable Business Services

Voice Apps, Video Not Wooing the Enterprise

NEW YORK -- Future of Cable Business Services -- Today's voice services go far beyond POTS of the past, but enterprise customers don't seem to care all that much.

According to executives from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and the VoIP provider Momentum Telecom, enterprise customers are not buying video services, and they aren't much interested in unified communications (UC) features like voicemail-to-email transcription, click-to-dial, or mobile apps. (See: Business Market Rediscovers Its Voice.)

Rather, reliability is still the top requirement. John Guillaume, vice president of product management and strategy at Comcast, said that customers are buying service from Comcast because of the value and ease of ownership through a self-managed web portal, not because of the bells and whistles. (See Comcast Plots National SIP Trunking in 2014.)

"We need to better educate customers about how to use this stuff," he said. "They aren't buying it for the features, but once you make customers aware and they start using them, you make a customer really sticky."

Anthony Orlando, vice president of operations and engineering at Momentum Telecom, said video is in that camp, too. The VoIP provider has deployed a video solution, and all its customers ask for it, but then no one buys it.

The same has proven true for Comcast. As Guillaume explains it, four or five of the 100 available features are most important to enterprises, but point-to-point video is not among them. Free services like Skype work well enough for most. "It's a check box, and customers will ask. It's important to win the business, but I don't see the opportunity there. It's a feature of an overall solution."

Voice is far from a new technology. The buzz around it has been all about the extra features and rich communications apps that new telephony services can bring. Orlando even admitted that voice alone is passé in a lot of respects, but Guillaume said that the enterprise market is a different beast that has been slow to change. "You can get the technology to work, but you can't get customers to adopt."

Even so, enterprise voice is now a growth segment and a revenue generator for Comcast, helping put it on track to generate nearly $3 billion in commercial services revenue for 2013. (See Heavy Reading: Cable Biz Sales to Hit $8.5B.)

And, despite their relative value, Comcast continues to add features to Business VoiceEdge, the hosted voice solution it launched last spring. The new features include a voicemail mobile app, teleworker functionality, and the ability to make high-definition video calls from the PC. (See: Comcast Takes Business Voice Mobile.)

"The features can help sell," Guillaume said. "There's a little sizzle, but in the end, when you boil it down, it's just the tremendous value you're giving the customer."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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