According to a new report from In-Stat entitled Reaching a Crescendo: The IP PBX Market, U.S. businesses are now actively incorporating IP solutions into their voice and data network strategies. The report uses data collected in the research firm’s ‘Voice and Networking Trends 2005” survey of U.S. business decision makers.
In-Stat Senior Analyst David Lemelin says the survey indicated a shift in attitude on the part of decision makers in businesses of all sizes. “These folks have been aware of IP solutions for a while – they’ve dipped their toe in IP solutions previously – and what we’re beginning to see now is that they’re moving beyond a simple experimentation stage to really begin to incorporate IP solutions,” he says.
For enterprises, Lemelin says, that usually starts with smaller implementations in which a company will experiment with a range of different options. “Let’s say they’re opening up a new branch office, or they’re opening up a new location of some kind – that’s typically a trigger where they’ll try an IP solution,” he says. “And they’re trying a variety – they’re IP-enabling existing PBXs, they’re going to fully IP-based solutions, or they’re experimenting with hosted solutions.”
Despite the functionality of an IP PBX, Lemelin says, the key selling point continues to be cost savings. “That’s the thing that attracts the new user,” he says. “But by the time they do the implementation and begin experiencing the feature functionality, that’s really what’s creating a sticky relationship moving forward.”
Branch offices in particular, Lemelin says, give companies an opportunity to experience the real strengths of VoIP. “Given a situation where I’ve got a location that has a lot of mobile employees, I really understand now the benefits of all the features – the follow-me features and unified messaging and those kinds of things – that really benefit those offices or locations that have a lot of mobile employees,” he says. “Or if I have a location that has a high toll usage, I’m going to go an IP solution of some kind to take advantage of the cost savings.”
Lemelin says the presence of a wide range of channel partners to choose from is key to assuring businesses that their needs will be met. “A lot of these folks are expecting VoIP to be so pervasive that they can have multiple partnership alternatives out there in the marketplace – whether it be with an equipment manufacturer like an Avaya or a Cisco or whoever, or a service provider, data integrator, voice integrator – they’re looking for all those folks,” he says. “Even the retail presence shows up here as well. Folks are looking to be able to really use a multitude of sources to help them meet their VoIP needs.”
While businesses are now committing to VoIP, Lemelin says, the implementations are still in their early stages. “There’s very few businesses out there that have gone to full IP solutions that they use exclusively,” he says. “But we’re getting to have an awful lot of them, and soon – at least in the middle markets and the enterprise space, I think we’ll see over half of them implementing an IP solution of some kind.”
In terms of shipments, Lemelin says, IP is now outstripping TDM – but it’ll be a while before the same is true of actual installations. “There’s such a huge embedded base of TDM that it’s going to take a while to fully catch up,” he says. “But moving forward, it certainly is something that [businesses have] fully embraced and have begun to integrate, and get a lot more comfortable integrating, into their total voice and data solution.”