Ready for a crash course in cloud communications? Let’s take a look at some exciting industry developments and consider what might come next for enterprise comms…
First things first, telephony as we know it may be changing but voice communications are here to stay and continue to be used widely. Think of the many reincarnations our phone lines have been through. From the kitchen phone with a rotating dialer and long cable (loved this one) to the marvel of the first Cisco IP phones in the early 2000s, it’s not the service that disappears, it’s the use case and technology carrying it.
Dialing resources remain the only vetted identifier that can be traced back to a physical individual in a reliable way. No other universal ID has been able to replace this. For selected applications, emails or usernames might suffice. Think Facebook a few years back. You could pretty much create 100s of profiles by inventing new usernames (as was the case in Skype). This is not the case any longer, your profile is now linked to your mobile number.
While this is already a huge deal, the exciting part comes with the applications that support voice. These are continuously morphing and growing, making current times a very exciting moment in terms of communications innovation.
For voice apps with a large user base, such as Skype, the community of users inevitably looks for ways to connect the “user island” to other communities. Telephony is almost always the first connection point to the rest of the world because it is the largest common denominator (e.g. Skype out — buy credits to call phone numbers, or Skype in — buy a phone number that rings in your skype app).
This is even truer for *enterprise* communication apps which very early on tend to have to make a decision between opening up to the outside world (e.g. Skype-for-business, Cisco) or remaining constrained to selected use cases within the enterprise market (Facebook Workplace, Google G Suite and Slack to some extent).
The importance of telephony is clear, the shape it will take is harder to define.
Keep reading for a quick recap on industry fundamentals and our views on where the industry is rapidly heading.
The hard first step: Connecting the islands
You run through the airport to catch a flight, you’re late but find out your flight is delayed by a couple of hours. You call your office to reschedule a meeting, most likely using your mobile as you need a quick, reliable and high-quality way to connect on the go. When things get hectic, making a call remains the go-to option, and since calls are not free, the expectation of quality is high.
But delivering on this promise has become more complex over time. Let me explain.
As telephony has evolved, the task of connecting people has moved from depending on hardware (initially including dedicated staff who patched a panel to get you through) to relying on pure software. This has lowered the barriers of entry into telephony and created a host of alternative operators — fixed and mobile. As a result of this fragmentation, calls go through increasingly diverse and long paths. And the matter is compounded by globalization and the need for businesses to operate in multiple disparate markets.
The problem is that each operator on the path is stuck in a different phase of telephony evolution, using disconnected hardware and software platforms, running VOIP or PSTN with varied feature sets and, last but definitely not least, operating in disparate countries under divergent regulatory obligations.
So while your expectation is sustained voice quality with a declining price, the reality of connecting you through a call is an increasingly complex mess with higher risk to quality.
Our primary mission at Voxbone is to handle this mess: Connecting you with as many people as possible (we cover nearly 93% of GDP), with quality that feels like everyone is in the same room. Whatever the call path, whomever you’re calling, between any countries, we ensure you at least have access to what everyone would consider the “basics”: Emergency calls? Covered. Calling a toll-free number for a conference? Covered. Still using fax? You got it. My examples sound trivial but, believe me, they still do not function properly (or at all) in most multinational companies. (PS: If you want to know how we, at Voxbone, make this work, you will have to wait for the April newsletter!)
The exciting consequence: Enabling the applications market
The first consequence of what Voxbone has built is a removal of the reliance on telcos . But this is not what excites us the most.
The reason we keep expanding our own network, obtaining authorizations from regulators and improving our APIs and services is that we provide a growing platform that has become the foundation of a host of applications, commonly grouped under Unified Communications (UC).
Through UC, users are able to merge a variety of capabilities into one consistent set of experiences across a variety of devices. Because these capabilities and experiences are continuously expanding, so is the scope of UC and the advantages it brings to businesses, which include among others: better prioritization of information, more functionalities, improved collaboration, higher productivity and cost savings.
According to Gartner, global spending on UC will grow at a 3% CAGR to reach $45.7 billion in 2022. This 3% CAGR, however, is a mix of two opposing trends: cloud comms systems growing at a c.16% CAGR and on-premise comms systems declining at a c.9.5% CAGR.
Why are cloud comms systems growing so fast and permeating through the whole business ecosystem, from large enterprises to SMEs? Because of two main drivers. Accessibility, in terms of both delivery and price, and the ongoing demand for businesses to improve their operations and boost their professionalism and efficiency.
As you can imagine, this is extremely exciting for us.
In addition to a full-stack offering and global coverage, we, at Voxbone, have a flexible and complete voice API that allows players to automate ordering, configuring, regulatory process and call analytics, among many other things.
This is why we’re the platform of choice for the cloud comms industry and a major enabler of its rapid growth (very cool, we know).
It’s also why we count among our customers the vast majority of Leaders and Visionaries in Gartner’s Magic Quadrants for six separate business communications categories, in addition to a growing number of enterprises that have decided to handle their comms in-house but still require a platform that they can connect their algorithms to. This is the case of global players such as Uber, Blackstone and many more.
What’s next for the industry and for us?
Like many other industries, communications has seen a shift in the makeup of its leaders, from horizontal local players to vertical global ones. Enterprises used to prefer one-stop-shop communications (your national or regional telco providing all your services), but the new emerging leaders are global vertical players specializing in one service. Think AWS for infrastructure as a service or us, Voxbone, for voice communications as a service.
We’re also seeing a rise in hybrid models combining cloud with premise-based deployments. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, a hybrid approach provides organizations the flexibility they require to gradually move to the cloud, one application at a time, at the pace that suits their business. Secondly, some of the early adopters of UCaaS solutions have come to the realization that, once they scale to a certain size, on-premise deployments can actually reduce costs and complexity (more on this another time!). Talk about coming full circle.
At the same time, we’re seeing a migration from subscription to usage models, as companies seek out per-minute pricing models that scale 100% with their growth. Quality of calls will become of paramount importance due to the growing compliance requirements of many industries for calls to be recorded and that the resulting media files to contain audible content (eg: financial institutions in Europe and the enforcement of MiFID II).
Elsewhere, communications providers are expanding their offerings and a certain amount of FOMO has prompted a spate of competing collaboration platforms to pop up. Video continues to become more prominent due to the increasing focus placed by businesses on one-to-many communications and continuous collaboration and we believe artificial intelligence will be added to most offerings driven among others by the acceptance of bots as a legitimate alternative to human interaction for customer service and their ability to help on predicting customer behaviour.
As you can see, the industry is changing fast!
With regards to what’s next for Voxbone? That’s probably a question for another article but now that we have global coverage and a network optimized for real-time communications, it would be a shame to just use it for voice instead of adding other types of real-time media…