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Business Market Rediscovers Its Voice

Carol Wilson

Voice service may seem passé, but in the IP-realm, voice services are suddenly hot again, fueled by a number of trends, including business interest in unified communications and the rise of hosted and cloud-based voice offerings.

As a result, we are seeing a rise in M&A activity in the voice networking realm. Witness today's acquisition news from Mitel Networks Corp. and 8x8 Inc. (Nasdaq: EGHT), on the heels of last month's acquisition of Vocalocity by Vonage Holdings Corp. (NYSE: VG). (See Vonage Acquires Vocalocity for $130M, Mitel to Buy Aastra for C$392M and 8x8 Acquires UK's Voicenet.)

And as I noted last month, the rise of interest in IP voice is driving expansion by competitive network operators in SIP trunking and other services as well. (See Comptel a Sunny Spot This Fall.)

What will be interesting to see is how and whether there is real innovation in how IP voice is delivered, and what it is capable of doing. One reason for highlighting a specific player like Bandwidth.com , as I did last week, is that they are looking at how voice services and even basic assets, such as phone numbers, can be used in a creative way. (See Bandwidth Bringing Profits Back to Voice.)

Already we are seeing hosted voice serve the SMB community better and more efficiently, and integrate wireline and wireless services in the way fixed-mobile convergence once promised. What else can we expect to see?

Who will do the innovating here? The OTT apps folks? The VoIP service providers? Device makers? Let me know what you think.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Scott Fincher
Scott Fincher
11/13/2013 | 9:45:06 AM
Who will innovate

Great thoughts, Carol.  I think the answer to who will innovate is "all of the above." Everyone will need to keep innovating on behalf of the specific customers they serve.  For example, Bandwidth is very focused on supporting those looking to do new things with a phone number.  It's crystal clear that the traditional consumption model – numbers and minutes – is ill-equipped to serve such customers, so our innovation centers around the various platforms and tools we provide.  The entire ecosystem will have to be mutually supportive, with network and platform providers like Bandwidth responding to - and in some cases driving - innovation for our customers servicing enterprise and consumers.  

11/12/2013 | 8:58:45 AM
Re: Why now?
...and once it figures out how to handle signaling needed for every communication.

It still needs to be widely adopted by browsers as this is not currently the case.
11/11/2013 | 9:29:14 PM
Re: Why now?
Browser-based WebRTC has huge potential to affect a lot of voice apps--once it gets past the patent fights and standards forum debates.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
11/11/2013 | 5:17:07 PM
Re: Why now?
WebRTC is also being explored as a way to innovate on voice. It could have the biggest impact on the enterprise or at least enterprise apps.

Twilio is another cool company transforming voice in the enterprise. AT&T teams with them, but has also introduced its own competitve variant, a call management API. Haven't heard much about it since it was introduced though...
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
11/11/2013 | 3:34:21 PM
Re: Why now?
Alan -- good question. I don't think there are major technical issues right now. The ability to do hosted VoIP had been around a long time. It may have more to do with the market maturing and developing sales strategies at this point. 
11/11/2013 | 3:32:44 PM
Re: Why now?
OK, Carol. thanks. We shall discuss it then. What do you think are a couple of the biggest challenges in deploying these hosted and cloud-based voice services?  
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
11/11/2013 | 3:20:05 PM
Re: Why now?
This will absolutely be a good topic of discussion in a few weeks. I think smart providers are realizing SMBs still need voice service and delviering it as hosted or cloud-based takes all the worry away for the business. At the enterprise level, it's about unified communications and being smarter in how you communicate internally and externally. 
11/11/2013 | 1:56:38 PM
Why now?
Very interesting, Carol. Why do you think all this is happening now? And what do you think cable's role might be here, if any? Should be good fodder for discussion at our Future of Cable Business Services conference in NYC next month, eh?
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