STAMFORD, Conn., September 22, 2004 — Most companies buy their own telephony equipment and manage it onsite today, but by 2006 half of all businesses will best be served by engaging in selective sourcing of Internet protocol (IP) telephony services, according to Gartner, Inc.
With such growth potential for IP telephony services, providers are offering a wide range of services. Among this range, Gartner analysts say managed IP telephony and IP Centrex will be the most successful IP voice services for U.S. businesses over the next three years.
"Managed IP Telephony will be the most widely adopted service provider IP voice approach for U.S. businesses," said Steve Koppman, principal analyst with Gartner's network services research group. "Softswitch-based IP Centrex will be used predominantly by small and midsize businesses (SMB)."
Managed IP Telephony refers to the deployment of IP PBXs managed remotely by service providers. This service modality will be most suitable for customers with unique specialized next-generation voice requirements and who either lack staff expertise in IP voice or otherwise prefer not to use their staff for the "care and feeding" of the new technology.
"A key factor in the level and speed of Managed IP Telephony success will be service provider pricing," Koppman said. "Businesses will look for a single, easily understandable price, on a per-seat or similar basis, rather than complex, per-component pricing. Carriers should be able to get deep discounts from equipment vendors, and carriers would do well to pass much of the savings on to buyers."
IP Centrex refers to hosted network voice service with private branch exchange (PBX)-like functionality and IP features, provided over carrier networks rather than IP customer premises equipment (CPE).
Softswitch-based IP Centrex will likely remain primarily an SMB offering with well-defined feature packages though lacking CPE's flexibility. Most larger businesses will likely seek greater flexibility and control than IP Centrex can provide. Key factors favoring an IP Centrex choice include:
preference for ongoing operational expenditure over upfront capital expenditure.
dearth of internal telecom management voice expertise that can be easily applied to IP voice.
little requirement for uniquely tailored next-generation applications.
"Enterprises need to carefully examine their requirements, particularly in terms of such factors as their need for highly specialized, customized applications, as well as the strengths and best deployment of their staffs, and the nature and efficacy of their current communications assets," Koppman said.