Industry pundits and researchers are predicting 2015 will be a big year for hosted unified communications solutions. That, in turn, will be a positive development for mobile UC users, who will likely say, “It’s about time.”
To date, there’s been scant evidence that UC is catching on in a big way with mobile users but it appears that may be changing. In its 2014 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) report, Gartner cited “mobile-only” UC deployments as one of four key trends. As the report said:
There are now isolated cases in which an entire company will not procure a hard phone and, instead, will rely solely on wireless and softphones. This situation, however, is more the exception than the rule. More often than not, it will be a certain percentage of employees, or perhaps a certain business function (for example, sales), which does not procure a hard phone.
Gartner goes on to say that younger employees (below 40 – ouch!) and those in certain verticals such as high-tech, real estate and entertainment, are statistically more likely to be mobile UC users. All of that makes perfect sense because such folks are typically more likely to be mobile users in general.
And we’ve known for some time that mobile users are early adopters of UC applications. Frost & Sullivan did aa while back, sponsored by Jabra, that showed as much. Asked the extent to which they agreed that mobile workers are early adopters of UC tools and effectively leverage them in the field, more than two thirds (69%) either “agreed” or “totally” agreed, while only 6% disagreed. (About one quarter were noncommittal.)
But the same study found that fewer than four out of 10 users actually accessed UC applications remotely.
2015 will see UC vendors get serious about mobile UC integration into their cloud solutions. Cloud UC has a powerful advantage over on-premises UC solutions: the ease with which cloud UC vendors can integrate multiple mobile devices into their solutions. Cloud UC vendors will deliver omni-presence, intelligent fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) call routing, and mobile-enabled support for call center agents in 2015.
Yes, he’s biased, but Chang has a point: it is easier to integrate multiple sorts of mobile devices with a cloud-based offering than trying to support everything under the sun with a premise-based UC offering. Simply put, cloud providers have the resources to pour into developing that kind of support that most individual companies don’t.
So it stands to reason that, as the UCaaS market grows, so, too, will use of mobile UC applications. And the UCaaS market is most certainly growing, with multiple research firms predicting compound annual growth rates of 12% or better, as we reported previously. That will result in a market size of anywhere from $12 billion in 2018 to $23 billion in 2019, depending on how you slice it and who you believe.
One of those research firms, Markets and Markets, correctly points out that a number of emerging technologies will also play a role in the adoption of mobile UC:
IP-enabled mobile devices and improved connectivity with the emergence of 4G LTE have further encouraged the usage of IP-based communications such as VoIP and mobile UC&C. With the advent of Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking, and Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) technologies, the mobile UC&C has further streamlined to offer enriched communication experience to the users, thereby fostering the significant growth in this market.
WebRTC is a natural for mobile UC because it allows peer-to-peer communications from simple Web browsers. VoLTE promises to provide the bandwidth required over cellular networks to deliver the quality and reliability that such communications require. And SIP trunking, in addition to saving you money, is also a smart way to connect to hosted UC services because of their inherent redundancy and disaster recovery capabilities.
This is far from a done deal, of course. Among the standing complaints about mobile UC solutions to date are that the interfaces are not user-friendly and of course security is always a concern. But the winds appear to be blowing in the right direction to see more and better use of UC by mobile users in 2015.