Yesterday we attended the European VoIP Summit, organised by specialist consulting and research group Cavell. The event was an in-depth, expert review of what is happening in the European VoIP marketplace at the moment. Panel discussions were held on individual topics to do with SIP Trunking, Hosted VoIP, UC, and overall VoIP market predictions, with industry experts such as Gamma, Broadsoft, and BT Wholesale in attendance.
We were excited to be part of such an energetic and well-attended event, and there were many interesting areas of discussion, but the topic that interested us the most was that of SIP Trunking and the future of the SIP Trunk market.
This panel was led by BT Wholesale, Gamma, Talk Talk Business and Tipicall, all major players in the SIP marketplace and all with quite unique viewpoints on the future of SIP.
What makes companies buy into SIP?
Much of the discussion centred on the drivers for buying SIP Trunking. This led on naturally to panellists wondering why take up of SIP hasn’t been more enthusiastic to date, which in turn leads back to companies like us knowing and understanding how to sell SIP Trunking and it’s benefits to a potential adopter.
The profile of people buying (or not) SIP has also changed. SIP trunks have been easier to integrate into smaller companies with no legacy infrastructure and larger companies who keep on top of the latest advancements in tech that can benefit them. Those companies who sit somewhere in the middle- of which there is a huge and diverse makeup- have been slower to upgrade to SIP from ISDN. This may be because they have invested heavily in their existing infrastructure and see more potential barriers to change than the other two customer groups.
However, there are common themes and benefits that SIP offers that all businesses are likely to respond to well:
- A customised service
- Robustness and a centralised environment for Resilience
- Cost implications
We are encouraged to see how conversations about SIP have shifted away from the pure cost-saving benefits, and have become much more about how a uniquely tailored SIP Trunking model can be a great business enabler, and support and even drive business growth.
Take-up in SIP is always going to be a consumer led process, however there are other factors that are having an impact on the marketplace. The most significant of these is the state of fibre broadband throughout the UK, and the government’s commitment to rolling out Superfast using initiatives like the Connection Vouchers scheme. Getting access to faster broadband means companies across the UK can take advantage more easily of SIP Trunking, and indeed many do decide to tackle their infrastructure at the same time as looking to increase their bandwidth.
At this point however, questions were raised by Ian Hunter, Editor of Comms Business Magazine, about whether or not our broadband was quite up to scratch and our Digital Economy as healthy as believed. He quoted a recent report from the Select Committee on Digital Skills on the UK’s Digital Future, which stated that out of 33 European cities listed, London came 26th in terms of average download speed (more on this here). Better connectivity across the nation can only be a good thing for the SIP marketplace.
How do we move forward from an ISDN legacy to a SIP nation?
The unanimous agreement about the future of SIP is that, over time, this evolution away from ISDN will occur naturally, as it has already with some of our European neighbours.
Barriers to purchase however remain. These are largely to do with misunderstandings and misconceptions around SIP Trunking, and it is the responsibility of industry players to do their very best to educate receptive audiences about SIP and its many benefits.
For example, one point that was raised was that there can be a misunderstanding about the costs associated with moving across to SIP Trunks. Many companies might be worried that they have to invest in a new IP PBX, or new SIP compatible handsets at great cost. This isn’t the case and SIP providers should be wary of automatically pushing new hardware onto clients thinking about SIP. It is possible to utilise most existing PBXs by means of a gateway and analogue phones can also be used with little problem. This does not mean that this older hardware is necessarily the best option for a company, but the point is that moving to SIP does not have to mean a complete overhaul if a business is feeling a little wary about making the change.
Changing the way people think about SIP Trunking
The point above is a good illustration of how miseducation can hold up an industry.
While the rise in SIP will be, and should be, consumer driven, industry professionals also have a responsibility in ensuring that the messaging around SIP should stay focussed on business benefits rather than profit or margin based conversations. Our job is to encourage consumers to lead the market based on the usability, scalability, resilience and agility of SIP. ISDN increasingly comes out as inferior in comparison to SIP, and represents an increasingly limited service with basic capabilities.
The beauty of SIP is that it responds directly to what a business needs. It shouldn’t be difficult to get companies to see this.
What’s the future for SIP?
Attendees were particularly interested in what experts thought about the ‘death of ISDN’, and when ISDN services are due to be ‘switched off’ within the UK. In Germany, ISDN has now become almost redundant in totality, and it is likely that the network will be switched off in the not too distant future. In the UK the decline is slower, with providers still actively selling and installing ISDN. However, with the number of SIP channels growing rapidly, general consensus from industry experts seems to be that ISDN’s days are indeed numbered.
The length of the SIP Trunking life cycle itself seemed up for debate. One panellist referenced a 15% drop in the PBX market, although the source of this information was unclear. Another spoke about our preference as a nation to pay for things on a monthly basis, and that this subscription based culture had implications for the SIP market in that it may eventually enable a shift towards Hosted Voice and telephony.
Whilst the long term future may be harder to predict, the short term outlook for SIP remains healthy. ISDN is gradually being replaced as a standard by SIP, and the up rise in adoption of Unified Communications is something that could be a part of SIP’s future.
One thing is clear: as with any successfully adopted technology, what remains the most important from a business and an industry perspective is that it is the user experience that counts. Businesses want a seamless, hidden process when it comes to upgrading their telephony and they want that process to enable them to work smarter, be more responsive, more able to grow and more resilient.