For some time, I have pointed out that broadband has improved enough over the last few years in both speed and quality to support over the top (OTT) applications and services. While true, there has still been a fair amount of hesitancy to apply this reasoning or conclusion to real-time applications. Therefore, many carriers have refused to provide hosted communications unless it has been a managed service, meaning that the carrier not only provides the cloud application but they are also responsible for the broadband and on-premise router. Others have taken this a step further and developed “fully managed” services, which also include LAN management and the installation of the phones. Each of these managed services completely ignores or invalidates the use of OTT.
The strength of IP communications lies in its ubiquity, price point, applications and support for mobility. It is the mobility aspect that weakens the requirement for a managed solution, as hosted communications – by its very definition – must work for participants within the office, from home or any other physical location with qualifying broadband access.
After fervently promoting OOT as acceptable to support video, VoIP, FoIP, gaming and other real-time/near real-time applications, I found validation in an offering by Verizon. During the recent BroadSoft Connections conference in San Diego, a Verizon product manager announced that their Hosted Unified Communications offering, Virtual Communications Express, is delivered as an OTT solution. Imagine that! A major ILEC is selling a business-critical application in an OTT manner!
There are the usual caveats, of course – the broadband should pass a VoIP readiness assessment, the buyer acknowledges the service is provided on a best efforts basis and there is no Service Level Agreement. However, Verizon is selling the service. They are leveraging their brand equity to deliver this service to SMBs outside of their territories. And it is important to recognize what they consider their “sweet spot” in terms of the size of businesses adopting their Hosted Unified Communications solution. According to the presenter, they are finding success with business in the 100-employee range, right at the crossing point between small and medium sized businesses. This is an important revelation since most supporters of using OTT for access usually limit it to home offices or “very small” businesses with 20 or fewer employees.
Verizon’s experience should create a sea of change for the RLECs and ANPI partners to promote and sell Hosted Unified Communications more broadly. Apparently, OTT for hosted has come of age, and the businesses that cannot pass a broadband assessment are an ever-shrinking percentage of the total market.