Consumer VoIP can find place in SMB

With the current enterprise Internet Protocol (IP) telephony market dominated by established big names, new entrants from the consumer voice-over-IP (VoIP) market looking to grab a share of corporate accounts will stand a better chance in the small and midsize business (SMB) space.

Shivanu Shukl, associate director at Frost & Sullivan, noted that large enterprises have already made heavy investments in their VoIP systems, making it “tough” for new market entrants to penetrate this customer segment.

Current big enterprise VoIP players include Cisco Systems, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent and Siemens, Shukl said in a phone interview, who also pointed out that Microsoft for several years has offered a VoIP service called Microsoft Office Communications Server–since renamed Microsoft Lync Server.

Popular consumer VoIP company Skype, which has been trying to push into the enterprise space, reiterated the importance of the business communications market in the company’s growth.

The company on Wednesday inked a partnership with Avaya to link the latter’s communications systems to Skype’s own service, allowing Avaya users to access Skype Connect.

Also joining the VoIP game is Internet giant Google. The company in late-August launched its VoIP service which allows users to make calls via its Web e-mail service Gmail. According to the company, 1 million calls were made in the first day after the launch.

The computer-to-phone service is currently only available in Google’s free Web e-mail service but the company is working to extend the feature to its Google Apps customers, a Singapore-based spokesperson told ZDNet Asia. Targeted at enterprises, Google Apps is the search company’s paid app service which includes Web mail and other cloud-based office productivity suite services.

Consumer grade VoIP
The enterprise market, however, will prove tough for Google and Skype because their IP telephony services are currently viewed as “consumer grade technology”, said Shukl, noting that the two companies may find more success in the SMB market.

“Skype and Google will need to prove their reliability and security [to enterprise customers]. For SMBs, the economics of [Google and Skype] will outweigh these issues”, he said.

He added that it is still too early to tell whether Google or Skype will gain more traction among business users.

It is difficult to compare both services because each player addresses the market differently, he said, noting that Google adopts a more holistic approach toward enterprises with its communication and collaboration tools.

When contacted, Skype’s company spokesperson said the company does not comment on other market players.

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