VOIP services

Survey: SMBs Crave VoIP Switch

The SMB market for VoIP services is about to explode and service providers unprepared to meet that demand risk losing a hefty chunk of that key customer base, a new survey commissioned by Metaswitch Networks reports.

The 2011 version of a regular survey of U.S. SMBs conducted by market research firm Inzenka showed that 27 percent of the 700 companies surveyed are already using VoIP and another 50 percent are planning to deploy it in the next two years.

What's more telling for service providers, however, is that three quarters of the companies that adopted VoIP did so with a new service provider, and over-the-top vendors of VoIP have the highest recognition factor among the SMBs surveyed.

When all the survey numbers are crunched, Metaswitch found that almost half (48 percent) of any given incumbent's SMB customer base is at risk, states Marketing Director Chris Carabello.

"We are using this as a call-to-arms among our service provider customers," Carabello says. "Businesses are aware that there are better answers out there and they are not waiting for the service provider to come knocking on the door."

Of course, as a vendor of softswitches and other gear designed to enable service providers to offer IP services and make the transition to an all-IP world, Metaswitch has good reason to sound an alarm that will push incumbents faster in that direction.

But comparing this year's data to a similar 2007 study shows major momentum behind VoIP adoption as SMBs face some of the pain points familiar to larger corporations and see a much higher number of their employees go mobile. Aging voice systems are expensive to maintain and ineffective in bridging mobile devices, such as smartphones or laptop soft clients, with existing fixed-line services.

"We used to think of mobile employees as top execs or road warriors, but now everyone is mobile," Carabello says.

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed have employees who work at home and 70 percent have mobile workers, with 95 percent of that group using smartphones. That's why features such as portal access and softphone features rank second and third in popularity in the survey, and are rising rapidly.

Other key findings include:

  • VoIP interest increases with the number of business locations and number of employees.
  • Lowering monthly expenses and easier system management were the top two purchase criteria.
  • Almost 90 percent of SMBs are interested in fixed-mobile convergence and 70 percent are willing to pay for it.
  • Two-thirds of SMBs surveyed want their VoIP gear deployed on-premises, even if they outsource management of it, because of their need for control.
  • The one-third who opted for hosted services are much more interested in add-on offerings such as hosted storage and security.

—Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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