VoIP opens up opportunity for service providers

There’s lots of opportunity for service providers to host or support voice over IP and call centre systems of customers, according to a Gartner survey of Canadian and American organizations.

But co-author Daniel O’Connell also found that providers will have to give customers a strong dose of reality before signing contracts. The findings came in a survey of the needs and expectations of 151 IT managers in organizations of various sizes with IP-based communications systems across a number of verticals.

In one of the surprising results, only 40 per cent of respondents said they’d be willing to have an outsider manage their call centres, O’Connel said, a smaller number than he expected. By comparison, 56 per cent said they’d be willing to outsource management of their IP environments. “Going into this I was thinking those numbers would be reversed, because call centres are complex,” he said.

He suspects organizations feel call centres are part of their core business, and are also likely to be customized operations. Therefore managers are less likely to be willing to have outsiders either host or oversee them.

Still, the fact that over half of respondents were open to third party management of IP infrastructure shows they understand how complex the technology is, O’Connell said. Not surprisingly, over 90 per cent of respondents were committed to VoIP adoption, showing the popularity of the technology. O’Connel said this support crosses organizations of all sizes. But a sizable number of respondents unreasonably expect VoIP will deliver astonishing savings — upwards of 50 per cent, some believe. Other Gartner research shows that’s “difficult to impossible” to achieve,” said O’Connell.

In fact, he said, research suggests the cost of IP-based communications compared to a TDM system is about the same, meaning VoIP should be selected for other reasons such as the different features it brings.

At Telus growth in managed VoIP systems and call centres “has been robust,” said Jim Johannsson, the telco’s director of media relations, although he couldn’t cite figures.

The company has been installing and supporting IP-PBXs since November, 2005, he said, and now counts “hundreds of thousands” of users. While the idea of hosted IT systems isn’t new, it hasn’t been clear yet whether organizations prefer to fully outsource their VoIP systems or just support. The survey showed just over one-third (38 per cent) believe third-party hosted VoIP will be the most attractive solution for them.

While that’s not even half, O’Connell noted, but it does indicate that a sizeable number — mainly small and mid-sized organizations — are willing to have communications infrastructure managed off-site. The numbers also suggests the majority of enterprise-sized organizations will want to maintain control of their physical equipment, he added.

As for who will provide these hosted or support services, the market is open. Survey respondents showed no preference as to whether they’d buy offerings from vendors, manufacturers or system integrators. “There’s a lot of opportunity,” O’Connell concluded, “and these formerly different players in the TDM space w

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