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VOIP 2015

The growth of voice over IP (VoIP) and the trend toward small and medium-sized businesses adopting VoIP don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, particularly as we enter 2015. The industry as a whole is set to grow to more than $76 billion in 2015, and the number of small office/home office subscribers is projected to grow to $262 million—a 50 percent increase since 2011.

But an interesting trend for the VoIP market is the continued increase in VoIP services and features in mass-consumer apps such asWeChat, Kakao, LINE, Viber, and Tango. These are apps that started out by providing free text messaging and voice services between handsets but only if both parties had the app installed. Increasingly, these companies are building VoIP capabilities into their software to allow users to call traditional landline and mobile phones outside of the network—exactly the same trajectory that Skype took after it launched.

Skype initially provided free text and voice services between users that had its client installed on their computers, but it quickly added mobile voice capabilities, driving Skype to become the dominant application in its space on the Internet. Microsoft eventually bought Skype for $8.5 billion back in 2011 and has slowly been integrating its capabilities into other Microsoft products. Another compelling trend is the support and encouragement for using VoIP on a traditional wireless carrier’s network, such as T-Mobile.

Apple’s recent release of iOS 8 supports Wi-Fi VoIP calls for any carrier that wants to allow it. T-Mobile was the first to jump at that opportunity. If you’re a T-Mobile user and don’t have a strong cellular signal, you can still complete your call over any available Wi-Fi hotspot. Note, however, that T-Mobile will still charge you for that time against your allotted number of minutes, so there’s no free ride there. It will be interesting to see if other wireless carriers adopt this strategy to be on par with T-Mobile.

According to research firm Ovum, there is a strong expectation that competing carriers such as Orange, Sprint, and Verizon will invest heavily in 2015 in enhancing their VoIP and messaging services, either through the development and deployment of their own apps or by white-labeling and partnering with a third party that has an existing and proven technology.

A compelling wildcard in this entire space may just be Facebook, with its recently completed acquisition of WhatsApp. WhatsApp has more than 600 million monthly users, an astounding number by any measure. How Facebook decides to monetize those users remains to be seen, but it would be difficult not to believe that VoIP will be part of the equation sooner or later.

The last continuing trend that will continue throughout 2015 relates to companies that decide to host their VoIP and private branch exchange systems completely in the cloud. The opportunity to move voice server systems offsite and let someone else manage them is becoming increasingly commonplace, and doing so allows IT departments to easily manage costs and know exactly how much it will be to provision a new user. The option also provides new opportunities for maintaining business continuity in the event of a crisis or disaster.

Ref: Robert Fine

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