The move from legacy PBXs towards voice over IP (VoIP) continues to gather pace, but channel players have asserted traditional telephony has some life in it yet.
Recent data from analyst MZA suggests as much, particularly in the small business market. During 2008’s second quarter, 53 per cent of all PBX extensions deployed were time division multiplexing (TDM), a 10 percentage point decline year on year.
In the less-than-100 extensions market, three-quarters of extensions deployed
are still TDM, although this has fallen from 85 per cent in the second quarter
of 2007. TDM extensions also represent almost a third of those deployed in the
more-than-100 extensions market.
Duncan Clark, research analyst for MZA, claimed slower adoption in the
under-100 extensions market could impede IP’s march forward.
“Over the past five quarters, IP penetration has increased on average by a couple of percentage points in each subsequent quarter. However, the below-100 extensions market will have to start performing better in this area to sustain the average increase.”
Jim Robertson, commercial director at distributor MTV Telecom, claimed TDM’s
market share would continue to recede, but that sales remain solid for now.
“We will see the TDM market shrink over time, but I do not think it will be particularly fast. Sales of traditional TDM systems are holding up pretty well at the moment,” he said.
Robertson said resellers coming from both telephony and data backgrounds face
differing challenges when acclimatising to VoIP, but both are now starting to
sell it successfully.
“Eighteen months ago VoIP was seen as leading edge and, in the past, there has been a lack of skillsets in the channel to sell it, but that is not the case anymore.”
ShoreTel is a pure IP vendor and chief executive John Combs claimed data resellers and those from telephony backgrounds enjoy varying levels of success in embracing VoIP.
“Of 10 traditional telecom partners, eight will be successful with us,” he said. “In data, we find that the number is about six out of 10 but those six will do as much or more volume in terms of business growth.”
The vendor’s EMEA managing director Mark Swendsen claimed TDM systems still
enjoy success due to their low cost, but predicted that by 2015, they would no
longer be manufactured or sold. “As a technology it has been fully depreciated;
legacy players have put TDM systems at the forefront as a way of controlling the
market and costs,” he said.
“But the ubiquity of VoIP will drive down the price. People also have a fear of obsolescence with TDM and do not want to buy technology that will have disappeared in two or three years.”
Phil Adams, systems sales director for telecoms distributor Nimans, claimed
many businesses with separate voice and data infrastructures are still opting
for traditional PBXs.
“There has to be a compelling reason to go for end-to-end VoIP,” he said. “There can be compelling reasons to run either single or dual infrastructures. At some future stage, dealers will no longer install dual infrastructures, but at the moment there is a lot of life in traditional PBX platforms,” he said.
David Hamer, director of reseller Redwood Telecommunications, was another
channel player to claim the manufacture and sale of TDM systems would die out
within a decade.
He also indicated that some businesses were reluctant to dive headfirst into a pure IP deployment. “Some clients, particularly call centres, will put IP in the back office and analogue in the front office, but that is not an approach we advocate.”
Hamer added that some firms maintain ill-founded misgivings about the
reliability of IP telephony.
“Some customers have misconceptions that IP is not of a high enough quality and will remain digital. Perhaps they have worked with people in the past who are voice only and not true convergence, or they have talked to someone in their supply chain or to a customer who did not get it installed correctly. But, gradually, these experiences are becoming less common.”
Research house Frost & Sullivan’s World Enterprise Telephony Markets
report, published earlier this year, claimed natural replacement cycles were
still the primary driver for firms adopting VoIP.
MZA’s Clark said: “In the under-30 extensions market, firms are less likely to see investment in telecoms and IT infrastructure as a way of saving money, but more as an expense that they will look to put on hold while they concentrate on other areas of their business.”
Swendsen said it is difficult to convince firms to take an unprompted leap of
faith and that stressing the cost benefits is key to selling VoIP.
“It is impending events that drive the consideration cycle,” he said. “Simple productivity gains will not drive adoption; it is hard unless you are able to write a compelling return on investment.”
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