Looking back at the telephony scene over the last few years you cannot fail to be astonished by the speed of technological development. It is not so long ago when mobile phones were the exclusive preserve of top business executives, or members of the security services, and business phone services were almost exclusively routed through POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service).
The face of telephony has radically changed with services once the preserve of a few now commonly available. In addition, a host of new data transfer, video conferencing and other new telephony services have made their appearance.
Given the pace and variety of change in this sector, figuring out where telephony will be in a couple of years is harder than ever before. While keeping these challenges in mind, technical experts and journalist can only try their best to estimate, or perhaps in some instances, “guesstimate” the principal trends.
Drawing on surveys of service providers and their customer they find out what people are thinking and postulate how this is going to translate into service developments.
Rather than make a vague review of the general direction telephony appears to be taking, this article focuses on a few subjects that seem very likely to stay in the headlines over the next few years.
No pretence is made of offering an exhaustive analysis of what the next few years hold in store. The objective is the far more modest one of offering a few signposts worth looking out for along the short-term telephony road.
Replacement of Managed PBXs with Hosted Phone Services
Over the last half decade the number of businesses changing over from managed PBXs to cloud-based hosted phone systems has been increasing by leaps and bounds.
In 2011 the research organization InfoTrack estimated that by 2016 there would be a 300% increase in hosted phone services. The pressures to cut business telephony costs combined with desires for more flexible phone systems remain strong.
While managed PBX providers have invested in improving their services it seems that they will continue to lose ground to the hosted phone service offerings. The cost of setting up hosted phone systems is considerably less than installing traditional PBXs.
Hosted systems can also be easily configured for very specific business requirements including support for working from remote sites, presenting a single number to all callers, and easy expansion in line with business grows.
Until recent years the domestic subscriber was the key player in the expansion of VoIP services. There is every sign that over the next few years business demand for hosted phones VoIP services is going to significantly exceed the growth in domestic demand.
Communications of the World Unite
United Communications, or UC as it is popularly know, is another trend on today’s telephony scene that looks set to intensify. While this is one of those technical terms whose definitions tend to be a little nebulous, UC usually defined in terms of the expansion of telephony from voice calls to embrace video, instant messaging and other computer-centered services.
In the early years of VoIP call quality often failed to match the POTs equivalent but recent technical improvements blur the caller experience distinction. A situation has been reached where a business cannot effectively compete without offering their employees and customers such a variety of communications options.
Technologically-driven changes in the way business is conducted, and in society at large, continue to increase the appeal of UC solutions. More companies recognize the advantages of allowing employees to work from home offices, or other off-premises locations.
Furthermore, customers and sales staff both expect to be able to quickly and easily contact whoever they need to speak with. UC makes it possible for them to easily communicate inside or outside their offices, and to be seen by and well as hearing the person they are speaking to.
Back in 2010, a survey conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that a fifth of Americans were making video calls. Without doubt this number has increased significantly over the last few years, not least because of the development of video call options from mobile devices. There is no indication of any decline in the growing use of this media.
The Bandwidth Famine
The increasing use of the Internet services for calls, and video and data transfer is already placing very heavy demands on bandwidth. Most employees and customers already lack the patience to wait a very long time for file transfer or the toleration to accept breaks in a video call.
Complaints of why a certain email has not arrived are common enough. Over the next few years businesses are likely to become even more seriously challenged to keep up with demands on their bandwidth allocations.
The rise in the popularity of solid and economical fiber solutions to bandwidth demands looks certain to continue, and is likely to gather pace.
Businesses are going to be interested in getting Internet speeds of up to 100 Mbps as they need to support many more service users and different devices. In addition to very high speed Internet and WAN connections the attractions of fiber solutions include high reliability levels, and they also support remote server hosting and router management.
These technical advantages combine with the significant expense reductions help explain why 2013 saw a 17.6% overall expansion in the use of fiber-based technologies (according to the Broadband Forum).
Just as the past few years have been a very dynamic period in the growth of telephony services, there are excellent chances that these achievements will be more than matched over the next couple of years.