Telephony-as-a-Service: emerging solutions for all kind of industries

Published by Gabrielle Guerrini on

Telephony-as-a-Service : emerging solutions for all kind of industries

As part of the digital workplace evolution in various industries, many new cutting-edge technology opportunities have appeared in the last years on the market, such as collaboration platforms, videoconferencing, room-booking and facility management together with telephony.

In this article, we are going to elaborate on “Where are we now with the novel cloud-based telephony platforms (ToIP)?” generating already a lot of added value for many companies. In fact, the market contains a wide range of new opportunities for voice communication in particular as part of UCaaS (Unified Communication as a Service) and CCaaS (Call Center as a Service), the traditional telephony players are also migrating their offerings to these new technologies.

Currently, the traditional telephony infrastructure providers and carriers are now facing novel and aggressive competitors with full cloud-based feature-rich solutions coming with high level of performance and availability (almost never interrupted with up to 99,999% availability), as well as attractive financial models. These providers are enlarging their portfolio to also combine offerings with other collaboration products (file sharing, videoconferencing, knowledge bases, etc.) and complementary products such as call-centers.

In the “journey to Cloud” exercise experienced by many companies, competition is fierce to target small and medium enterprise to MNC accounts in their transformation project for telephony services. In this context, an assessment of the current situation and technical opportunities about these cloud-based solutions will follow, inclusive of

     1. Capabilities
     2. Personae and Use Cases
     3. Players / Competitors
     4. Cost approach
     5. Social Media

Capabilities

Traditional P(A)BX with racks, call-managers and gateways are still present (and considered as critical components) in many companies, very often due to their robustness. However, many of these systems are saturating today, with a strong lack of modern functionalities, preventing companies to offer the best telephony services to their users and customers (with different business models: B2C, B2B or B2B2C).

Furthermore, nowadays, the cloud based ToIP solutions with easy provisioning and limited to no hardware to maintain for the clients, include some cutting-edge functionalities that can be considered as new standard:

   1. Ownership: first and foremost, company can (re)gain ownership on their telephony services, with scalability and ease of configuration.
     – Group RFP can also create attractive deals and reinforce collaboration across all entities,

   2. Mobility: a major improvement, whereby everyone can be accessible with 1 single number across the globe, even if required via the web-based platforms (via webRTC).
     – This flexibility is key and as soon as Wi-Fi is available while abroad, potentially at very limited cost compared to traditional roaming practices,

   3. Security and resilience: authentication (with 2FA) is required before any user can make a phone call, with all traceability features required, together with business continuity,     
     – 
However, topology with multi-tenancy can still occur as one of the drawbacks,

   4. Transparent reporting: modules and features are greatly enhanced to follow-up on the different use cases, compliance with internal best practices, performance (with few appliances when required) and costs generated by these services,

   5. Compatibility with all kind of devices such as phones, tablets, VC, etc. from the different major manufacturers on the market, 
     – If required, bridges can be created with most of the VC solutions to limit impact and effort for change management.

Traditional features such as IVR, group calling, paging, number management, etc. are of course included in the offerings.

In parallel, these new ToIP solutions very often need to rely on (high-density and) performant Wi-Fi services, in conjunction with IoT and BYOD. In this context, network services need to be strengthened to ensure optimized performances, with allocation of appropriate bandwidth.

Personae and use cases

To ensure user adoption of these new softphone solutions and by all kind of users, the first step is to design the use cases for each category of users, typically:

   1. Managers, requiring mobility, can be equipped with the solution on all their devices (phone, tablet and laptop) to be reachable at any point in time. The assistance to transition to softphone is required but eventually can provide more comfort on the daily usages,

   2. All kind of assistants and secretaries can use this solution to help top management and C-level executives in their daily activities (filtering, whitelisting, call forwarding, etc.),

   3. In stores, warehouses, distribution centers, manufacturing centers, all the manpower should be equipped with shared phones to streamline the processes, 

   4. All reception desks, phone booths, common workspaces, etc. can be equipped with a SIP-capable hardware phone : 

     – Most of the new modern VC equipment are also compatible with this approach, facilitating deployment. 

   5. Compatibility with their call-center module is generally also offered by the different providers.

Other industries may require other use cases. Overall, a preliminary comprehensive study must collect all critical functionalities. Some providers are lacking few key features at this stage of their development, the RFP process needs to assess the compliance within a client’s environment. The idea is to ensure maximum benefits across all the organizations, with ranges of features that can guarantee to cover swiftly most of the critical use cases during the roll-out.

Competitors on the market

After review of the UCaaS and CCaaS main players and challengers on the market, few big names are coming on top of the board, each one having pros and cons, but many challengers are also to be considered:

      1. RingCentral, as the main leader, together with Fuze, 8×8, Broadsoft (now Cisco) are often identified bidders in the main worldwide RFPs,

     2. Zoom is also promoting new telephony services but limited in terms of region availability, which would not be a good fit for organizations scattered across various continents,

     3. Traditional carriers trying to move quickly to this new technology such as OBS, Verizon or BT, but it seems they did not manage to cope with their new competitors in 2019. What about 2020?

     4. Microsoft is a new contender in this challenging market with MS Teams for the past years, but it is probably early for this product in terms of capabilities compared to others, in particular for interoperability and the only recent release of the MS Teams API.

     – Reminder, if not migrated yet, Skype for Business is phasing out gradually everywhere and remains live only for a few more months before end of life,

     5. Small (local or regional) players, probably not the “best of breed”, but they could fit requirements of small to medium-size companies with reasonable pricing, with for example Mitel, Yeastar, Sangoma, etc.

Copyright Gartner

Cost Approach

If you need to have a breakdown for your cost buckets, most of the vendors are offering packages with:

     1. Unlimited calls to other numbers from their solution,

     2. Series of licenses, with few to many countries (or regions) were unlimited calls are included, however sometimes with limitations to mobile numbers,

     3. SIP trunks are required in specific countries (depending on laws and regulations); however, costs generated remain in general favorable to the companies.

        – Also, few countries are not allowing ToIP, which sometimes prevents to deploy globally,

     4. Opportunity to buy SIP-trunk phones at competitive prices,

     5. Assistance to setup the platforms and experience to deploy the solution in the solution in various clients’ contexts.

Altogether, the financial models for these telephony study need to be thoroughly addressed, with all the different layers: 

     1. MDM is a factor to be included for all mobile equipment, the company fleet needs to standardize this layer when moving to this kind of solution,

     2. Telephony plans for data are still required, it is generally a good occasion to renegotiate these contracts locally,

Nevertheless, some preliminary results can guarantee up to 60% cost savings on the telephony segment itself.

ToIP vs Social media solutions?

Nowadays, WhatsApp is also becoming an alternative and many co-workers and clients around the world are interacting with each other’s via this platform as it helps to reduce costs and create persistent group chats. In China, WeChat also appears as an option with telephony plans at personal and company levels for China and few surrounding countries, WeChat also embedding new digital marketing modules. Finally, Line is another alternative largely used in Japan.

However, these options are not guaranteeing all security policies (privacy, GDPR, etc.) required by many companies, and in particular with WhatsApp, users do not need to register officially to authenticate. In addition, no contingency plan, DLP, log management, dashboards, company directory, support, etc.  is offered by these major social media players. All these constraints cannot allow any medium to large companies to adopt such solutions.

Conclusion

In this article, we try to promote possible new disruptive ways to deliver telephony services with performance, quality and cost-efficiency for all kind of organization willing to change the paradigm compared to their current traditional telephony infrastructure.

Other opportunities will appear soon, with new players able to address this global market. Many office suites are providing all sorts of collaboration tools, telephony is very likely to be included in them in the near future (with bring-your-own carrier at an early stage) allowing a convergent approach for all collaborative technologies offered to their users.

This new era is just emerging with more and more companies driving a massive change towards new operating models, including work-from-home for an increased number of their employees. And even more so after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gregory FRANC

Practice Leader EVA Group APAC

Categories: EVATECH