Opinion Piece: VoIP 2.0

By Mitchell Barker

VoIP 2.0 – Part 1

VoIP is a commodity. Don’t believe me? I would be surprised to hear of a company who hasn’t been offered this technology in one form or another. I mean really, hard VoIP users topped the 100m mark based on Research conducted in UK and released in 2010. In South Africa, Bred pre 2005 -legalized then, 6 years on, and VoIP is more of a topical subject today than ever before.

The only difference now is that VoIP has a new face. There used to be a clear distinction between VoIP, IP Telephony and Unified Communications. Going forward, its going to be about Users (not devices) and Applications (not Features).

I am terming this piece as VoIP 2.0 with the intent of highlighting what I believe to be ‘Survival mode for VoIP’. Those not moving with the times will struggle to retain their customers until they can wrap enough value around what it is they are offering. The market is ready for Providers to step up to the plate.

So what trends in this “2 dot 0” acronym? In my view, the “2.0” wave is about Innovation, to continue re-inventing yourself, focus on changing the user experience, and adding value to your customers by addressing their individual and specific communication requirements. Fundamentally, The normal VoIP Value Proposition just doesn’t cut it anymore.

VoIP 2.0 is not going to be about Cheap Minutes - VoIP 2.0 is going to be about Application. Cheap(er) minutes will be the value-add and not the primary reason for adoption of the technology.

A few examples of this could be (or a few examples of VoIP Applied, versus VoIP LCR (Least Cost Routing)
Connectivity via VoIP = Commodity. Survivability through VoIP = Application.
VoIP onto Cellphones = Commodity. Mobility, Single Number Identity, Always being Contactable =
VoIP conferencing = Commodity. Managed and Recorded Conferencing, Voice and Video; with
Collaboration between users – on the fly = Application.

Customers have started to realize that Productivity gains, Improved Efficiency, and Seamless Contactability through VoIP are now tangible measurables. This isn’t “pie in the sky” stuff anymore. Unified Communications can be ‘general’ technology, but when mapped into a customer’s organization in a way that positively affects how that company does business – well that’s then you start to realize these benefits.

The Key differentiators in a market with these dynamics will be experience, and flexibility. I would like to think that there aren’t too many Major providers that bring both to the Market. Understanding who is and who will be positioned in the future - One thing is for sure – I don’t foresee more than a small handful of players in the next 3 years. Simply said, the Mammoths will continue to growth, certainly through acquisition of smaller players.

However, this doesn’t mean that those will be the only identities in the market. Building, Licensing, and Managing a VoIP Network simply isn’t a viable option anymore. Interconnect Agreements and Network Licenses are hard to come by, they’re expensive, and they eat away at the bottom line. This will present an opportunity for smaller companies to get involved and provision white-label services from the Major operators.

We will see an abundance of New Age technologies backed by Carrrier Class Networks in many forms - VoIP driven applications and Business Models that will take us into the New Era, such as Hosted PBX as a Premise Based alternative, the move to open applications embedded into Common Interfaces which will tie in with Mobility, and last but certainly not least, Integration with common Business Applications.

At the end of the say, VoIP Providers need to start changing in an adapt or die Comms world. The next wave of Communications is on us, and in our Market, we’re seeing a lot more Small Businesses with Big Business requirements.

~Mitchell Barker,
Telecom & VoIP enthusiast, UC Specialist, Active Blogger, Founder of WhichVoIP.co.za, Husband, Father, just an ordinary guy with a Passion for people.
Contact Mitchell at: [email protected]