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The Real Competitor for Your VoIP Budget

Cisco and Avaya may be relishing their newest SIP announcements, but the real 1,000-pound gorilla on the enterprise VoIP landscape isn't on your premises. It's in your network, as in the mobile operator.
Telcos are angling to provide enterprise VoIP services over the next four years and a recent report shows that enterprises may be just primed for what they have to offer. In her latest report, "Fixed- Mobile Services Will Lead Technology Convergence," Forrester's Brownlee Thomas and company report how 77 percent of the 615 enterprises surveyed have centralized their procurement of mobile voice and data services. Over half of the companies surveyed indicated in interest in dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi phone sets and that was before they even shipped.

Over the near term, operators will deliver bundles of fixed line and mobile services. Verizon Business is planning service bundles that tie in Verizon Wireless's EVDO 3G service with the former MCI's remote-access service. Later this year, AT&T will launch AT&T branded mobile services (on Cingular Wireless' network), which Forrester expects will also integrate into AT&T's remote-access offer to entice enterprises. In 2008, though, look for major integrators, such as EDS, to join the fixed-mobile crowd. EDS already provides a international bank ABN AMRO with a BlackBerry service for the bank's 2,000 users.

So where's the gorilla? Well, also in 2008, expect to see mobile operators deliver their IP Multimedia Subsystem-based (IMS-based) services. IMS is a bugaboo of a specification based on SIP (another bugaboo) that will enable service providers to deliver Centrex-like services to mobile phone users. And there's the beast. With Verizon equipping you with a mobile phone with all of your business telephony features, why purchase a telephony server?

My guess is that while Forrester is dead-on that enterprise will want fixed-mobile services, telcos have a long way to go to prove they can deliver affordable, business-grade PBX-like services. Even then, today's telephony servers are morphing into becoming repositories for presence information and telephony-based Web services for VoIP-enabling corporate applications. I find it hard to believe that fixed or mobile operators will be able to deliver on those sorts of advanced capabilities.

What do you think?