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VoIP Hits The SMB Market

Voice over IP (VoIP) technology was originally targeted largely at the enterprise, but recent trends suggest it has traction at the lower end as well. In a report released in May, Robin Gareiss, Nemertes Research executive vice president, cited the recent announcement of Nortel Networks' BCM 50 small-business IP PBX as evidence of VoIP's appeal to the SMB arena. Gareiss and Nemertes say the small-business VoIP market will become increasingly more competitive during the next 12 months as more vendors enter the space.

To date, SMB VoIP adoption has trailed that of the enterprise. Nemertes conducted another recent survey in which 96 percent of enterprise participants said they had either implemented or planned to implement VoIP, while 75 percent of SMB respondents were already doing so. Nemertes attributes the lag partly to a lack of focus by major PBX vendors, but says the BCM 50 shows how Nortel is aggressively targeting the low-end space. The BCM 50 is designed for locations with fewer than 30 stations and "includes many of the applications and features previously reserved for Nortel's large customers." The BCM 50 architecture makes it easy for resellers to develop packaged solutions for particular markets or for customers to add features as their businesses grow.

Gareiss predicts that Nortel and other competitors will be challenged to migrate businesses from TDM systems onto VoIP, but the prospective gains they can make in cost savings, improved communications and productivity should motivate numerous smaller businesses to at least take a closer look at the technology, potentially creating a "huge revenue opportunity" for vendors and resellers who address the market properly.