Convergence Drives Audio Conferencing Biz

Enterprises and service providers are moving to consolidate conferencing capabilities.

August 10, 2004

2 Min Read
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The market transition to IP has ignited the convergence of audio, data, and video conferencing into an integrated solution, promising to render obsolete the concept of stand-alone audio conferencing. According to analysts at Frost & Sullivan, this shift is being driven by the growing demand for single source solutions by enterprises as well as the move to convergence among service providers. These are the dynamics that drove the global audio conferencing bridge market to generate $169.1 million in 2003.

Analysts say enterprises are likely to adopt integrated solutions because they minimize network constraints and provide a higher level of functionality over traditional audio-only solutions. A wide range of converged offerings are available to them in the form of both hosted services and behind-the-firewall solutions, leaving enterprises to decide which solution best fits in with their available capital and infrastructure resources.

"Increasing integration of conferencing solutions with corporate e-mail and calendaring applications, and Web-based call management features make audio bridge offerings more accessible," says analyst Jim Regan. "As demand for a collaboration suite of applications intensifies, solutions will continue to integrate applications and business processes to provide more communication options."

On the other hand, service providers are expected to focus future development efforts toward the delivery of converged services in order to help curb price erosion and boost margins. By providing a converged conferencing service, providers are able to add a level of differentiation to their reservationless and operator-assisted conferencing services.

For audio conferencing bridge vendors, product differentiation is more important than ever before because of the ongoing market consolidation. This merger and acquisition activity, while reducing the number of vendors, has compelled participants to improve features to distinguish themselves from competitors and boost their position in the market.Consolidation has not limited the number of solutions available, as most existing and legacy product lines continue to be distributed through the acquiring vendor."The consolidation trend in the industry is actually assisting the evolution of IP and convergence, since in many instances, acquisitions are taking place for technology and application reasons rather than just market share," notes Regan.

To continuously meet market demands for sophisticated, integrated, and feature-rich solutions, vendors will have to invest substantially in R&D. Investments in product development are also likely to be prompted by the ever-improving conferencing capabilities of IP PBX (private branch exchange) solutions, which create alternatives to enterprise bridge adoption.

"The increased expense in R&D can be compensated by the continuous market growth and port capacity expansion," observes Regan.

To completely harness converged applications' advantages of increased capacity, functionality, and efficiency, vendors will have to develop a sound build/buy/partner strategy. This is likely to ensure that the solutions are current, reliable, and released in time in the market.

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