It's January and people are still making predictions about 2013. Dave Michels wrote a nice piece about the history of Level3's 3Tone service, which I was pretty familiar with due to four of my clients rushing into the void to sign up - just as Level3 was aborted the service. I view this move by Level3 as one reason that I don't see Jim Crowe as the visionary others do.
Today, we see VoIP Innovations rolling out a complete wholesale private label VoIP service. It might be too late for another entrant in the space, but I think the wholesale Origination/Termination space is flat with low margins, so it's a pivot towards higher margin and new prospects.
Most predictions about VoIP center on two things - mobile and video - just like they have for the last few years. If you really want business VoIP to take off, you need more inter-connection, in order for HD Voice and Fax over IP to work across NNI's. Remember the VoIP Peering Fabric?
According to Frost, "Approximately 42 percent of non-cloud unified communications users intend to deploy hosted phone systems in the future." Well, seeing as how the Hosted PBX market is still smaller than Centrex that didn't require much of a crystal ball. As the RBOCs delete copper, Centrex will die too. (Seems strange that they would be so quick to get rid of POTS and Centrex service since the margins on those are big.) Most of that Centrex business should convert to Hosted UC systems. The only thing stopping this conversion is the sales teams of the cloud comm companies. If ever you were going to invest in your sales teams, NOW IS THE TIME!
Why? People are not buying the same way as they did 4 years ago. The services being sold are not the same as 4 years ago. However, the sales people ARE the same as 4 years ago!!! Get the disconnect???
Will the mobility piece be a hurdle for some Cloud Comm companies? Maybe. I think that the SP (service provider) that can sufficiently integrate their MVNO with Hosted Exchange and their Hosted PBX offering will have an advantage. I would say be a big winner but to win, that SP would need a great sales team and other elements of the organization at the peak of its game (billing, customer service, deployment, on-boarding).
Congrats to Vidtel for scooping up Alex Doyle as VP of Marketing. Doyle had a long run at Broadsoft before a short stint at Polycom. Expect big things at Vidtel, a video conferencing company that doesn't rely on hardware as a crutch.
On that note, ACT Conferencing, one of the leading conferencing service providers in the US, is announcing a partnership with Vidtel to deliver cloud-based video conferencing. ACT will be a channel partner of Vidtel selling the Vidtel MeetMe service. Just an example of the ongoing shift in video conferencing towards cloud applications (from hardware).
One last trend I am seeing is that a lot of SP's are leaning heavy on the channel for sales in 2013 - FreedomIQ, Vidtel, Panterra and EarthLink among them. [Note: ELNK just laid off 15% of its workforce.] How effective that will be depends on a number of factors that not all these companies have figured out yet. The glaring hole in that strategy is that if you have issues - with the service, the channel program, tech support - the channel will abandon you. Even if you fix the problems, you have to regain the trust you lost. It's a tough road.
I think 2013 is a year of opportunity for any cloud services. I just don't know who the winners will be.