System integrators could stand to gain from a 200 percent growth in the market for Unified Communications (UC) applications and platforms during the next five years.
Unified Communications refers to the integration of IP telephony, presence information, internet chat, video conferencing and messaging service such as email.
A recent study by global consulting firm Ovum forecasted that more than 16 million enterprise-owned mobile devices would be connected to UC platforms by 2014. The market could provide opportunities for systems integrators (Sis), value-added resellers, enterprise IP telephony vendors, device manufacturers, middleware vendors and mobile network operators (MNOs). Ovum's principal analyst Evan Kirchheimer said that systems integrators are in a strong position to UC-enable both fixed and mobile lines for large businesses. "This is because large businesses turn to SI's as IT experts for professional services, managed services and outsourcing to a much greater degree than they turn to telcos," he told iTnews. "Large firms increasingly see UC as an element of their overall IT strategy." Although no Australian firms were interviewed for Ovum's recent report, Kirchheimer expects Australian integrators to have a particular advantage. "Given Telstra does not currently have significant IT services capabilities for multinationals, I would imagine that means SIs are in a better position in the Australian market to profit from this growth," he said.
Meanwhile, telcos and mobile network operators should focus on the small business market, Kirchheimer said, noting that most have been holding back from launching UC services so far. In contrast with large businesses, which often require complex Private Branch Exchange (PBX) solutions, small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are expected to be attracted to simpler solution bundles on simple terms. A separate survey conducted by Ovum on 2000 SME telecoms buyers indicated that most SMEs express much greater interest in core UC features such as directory, presence, and unified messaging, than in horizontal applications like mobile field force automation or fleet management. Mobile network operators should develop partnerships with IP telephony vendors, local value-added resellers and messaging software vendors to be best equipped to service the small end of town, Kirchheimer said. "Smaller Australian businesses tend to turn to their telco for communications, and increasingly IT, advice," Kirchmeimer said. "Telstra has launched several significant SME-oriented IT and comms services for SMEs and I see no reason why Australian mobile operators would not extend their service offers to SME clients to include UC in the near future."
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