Talking telephony

Recent trends show the take-up of IP telephony is now blooming in the Middle East.

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By  Administrator Published  May 22, 2007

Internet protocol (IP) telephony is a hot topic. And as the concept develops technologically, the benefits on offer - combined with the proposed reduction in costs - becomes an even more attractive proposition for businesses the Middle East over. With companies opting to deploy this technology in their masses, it is no wonder that vendors are predicting projects galore for resellers in the region. Channel Middle East dials into this enthralling landscape to determine exactly what opportunities lie in wait for resellers.

The take-up of IP telephony has been a gradual process in this region, with local businesses traditionally appearing apprehensive to dip their toes into VoIP waters. However, recent trends show that the implementation of the technology is now blooming in the Middle East.

Chris Moore, regional director Middle East and Africa at networking vendor Extreme Networks, reckons the initial reluctance may have been due to the lack of awareness surrounding legal aspects of the technology and the benefits of what is actually available in the market. "We see the Middle East take-up of IP telephony to be accelerating rapidly now although it was a little slow to start with due to lack of regulatory clarity," he said.

The skill-set required for the reseller is that of a converged solution provider that handles both voice and data equally well. Any reseller lacking in these aspects will not survive.

Sergios El-Hage, regional VP at EMW Middle East, North Africa and South-West Asia, also confirms that IP telephony implementations are becoming more frequently demanded by the system integrator's customers. "We used to sell a mixed bag of IP telephony, digital and analogue - now most of the deals are requiring IP telephony," he claimed. Although its uptake is increasing swiftly, the proportion of businesses in the region deploying IP telephony still has some way to rival emerging markets such as India and China. Networking giant Cisco believes the good times are still ahead for the Middle East. "The take-up of IP telephony is currently slower than some high growth markets in the rest of the world," reckoned the vendor's Gulf channel manager, Adrian Taylor. "Nonetheless, the Middle Eastern telecommunications market continues to evolve and I am confident that there will be an accelerated increase in users who will enjoy the benefits that Cisco's unified communications technologies deliver," he added.

To really capitalise on the surge in implementation of IP telephony it is imperative for reseller to possess a specialist skillset. Vendors in the networking and communications space routinely run education and training schemes for their partners, aiming to raise awareness of the latest products and newest technological developments in the field. Most vendors encourage resellers to have background skills in telecommunications and IP networking, and claim that in order to capitalise on the growing trend in IP telephony, resellers need to exploit the schemes and resources on offer.

Mitel GCC's general manager Hisham Amili reckons it takes a well-trained and sufficiently educated reseller to reap the benefits that IP telephony has to offer, claiming that those who don't invest in proper training will lag behind. "The skill-set required for the reseller is that of a converged solution provider, meaning a solution provider that handles both voice and data equally well. Any reseller lacking in these aspects will not survive," he warned.

Vendors play a monumental role in determining a reseller's success and it is therefore the vendor's duty to ensure partners receive quality training to keep them abreast of developments in this field. Roger El-Tawil, Avaya's regional and marketing director, acknowledges the vendor's role in keeping its channel partners aware and up-to-date. "We try to keep awareness at a good level through face-to-face communication, roadshows and channel partner events. We're currently launching a series of training schemes for the channel to raise awareness and competence across the region," he added.

Cisco agrees that a broad grasp of the market isn't enough to cut it in such a competitive field. The vendor reckons that to serve customers better, and to really stake a claim in the marketplace, resellers need a narrow focus. "Specialisation - that's my advice for resellers in the region," said Taylor. "Our specialised partners have mastered a structured training regimen and then proven their acumen in an assessment process. This provides a solid foundation for delivering a successful implementation of IPT and a platform for providing an enhanced unified communications experience every time," he added.

However, other vendors and distributors argue that attaining a sufficient level of competence is not quite as complex as some like to make out, claiming that it is quite straightforward for voice and data resellers to attain the necessary skills to succeed in the IP telephony sector simply by heeding advice and building on previous expertise. By attending partner events and training schemes, many believe that half the battle is won. "As long as the reseller has good IP networking skills and a decent telecommunications background they can easily acquire the necessary skill sets to deploy IP telephony," said Zakir Lokare, enterprise business unit manager at Online Distribution.

Hamed Diab, 3Com Middle East's general manager, reckons resellers that are trying to develop a presence in the IP telephony sector should not be scared off by the technology. "We have very simple solutions - simplicity is the key - and it only takes maybe 15 minutes to install it on top of your existing network," he said. "The skillset is quite simple as well, but the reseller should have a background in networking. We look at the system not only from an IP telephony perspective, but also network, voice and data - that's what we're really good at. Anybody would be surprised at how easy it is to implement," claimed Diab.

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