The voice choice

Factors to consider for Middle East network managers when migrating to a new IP telephony system

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The voice choice Interactive Intelligence’s Haque insists Middle East enterprises are showing strong appetite for the latest IP telephony technologies.
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By  Piers Ford Published  January 10, 2011

There are a number of factors that Middle East network managers need to consider when migrating to a new IP telephony system. And they are not all linked to cost, as Piers Ford reveals.

Despite all the hype around unified communications, one element is still driving the adoption of IP telephony in the Middle East, according to some industry watchers: voice. And more specifically, voice at reduced cost.

Multinational businesses with a Gulf presence are leading the IP-based collaboration movement. And vendors prefer the all-embracing ‘unified’ tag for a host of technologies that allow them to position their IP products as levers for collaborative communication strategies. But most firms are still fixated on IP’s potential to deliver more flexible and scalable voice solutions.

“Cost saving is still one of the most important market drivers,” says Lindsey McDonald, MENA consultant with Frost & Sullivan’s ICT practice.

“Logistics is the other major driver: it’s far easier to deploy an IP network than connect to an ageing national infrastructure and it gives you more control over your voice traffic. But basically, everything comes back to voice at the moment. Web conferencing and telepresence are coming in but these are not specifically causing people to invest in IP.

“The Middle East is a market with relatively high tariffs and now that we’re seeing increased liberalisation in the voice market — particularly in countries like UAE where there are now four or five voice operators — IP telephony is being used much more in the enterprise. Historically, there has been a lack of infrastructure but UAE and others are addressing that.

“Governments in the UAE and Oman are pushing the greater use of IP. And it’s coming into play elsewhere: Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, where there is a lot of development in healthcare — a key market for IP telephony — and IP telephony is increasingly a must-have technology,” she says.

McDonald says that even in tightly regulated territories where VoIP is not currently permitted, the expectation is that it will be legalised in the next five years, and many organisations are deploying platforms now, to be ready when the time comes.

However, some vendors and solution providers report that factors other than voice costs are playing an increasingly significant role in purchasing decisions. Venkat Raghaven, general manager at systems integrator Al-Futtaim Technologies, says the promise of convenience and convergence should not be underestimated. “The convergence offered by IP telephony has changed the enterprise communication landscape,” he says. “PABX systems in branch offices are no longer treated as independent nodes but instead, a centralised PABX serves the needs of all branch offices.

“In other words, IP telephony creates the illusion of ubiquitous presence for enterprises spread across geographic boundaries. The convenience is based on its ability to include standards-based equipment and applications that promote a homogenous user experience,” he adds.

Raghaven says modularity, scalability and applications portability are also shaping adoption trends in the region. IP telephony effectively offers a pay-as-you-go proposition, while IP-friendly applications can be accessed by many devices across multiple media, including chat, SMS or multi-party conference.

With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that nine out of 10 requests for proposal (RFPs) — in public and private sector — now specify the latest IP technology in bid responses, according to Shaheen Haque, territory manager, Middle East and Turkey at unified business communications specialist Interactive Intelligence.

“Some Middle East organisations need to migrate to IP telephony gradually as their business may be reliant on older technology and they will be looking for new and old systems to co-exist, at least in the interim, as the organisational infrastructure catches up,” he explains.

2717 days ago
Serjios EL-Hage

It is not only about technologies or trends or vendors it is simply about the SIs that make it all happen. All points presented are probable cause for concern as no clients testimony was presented which by far is the most important and the final judge of which best suits their needs but one fact remains unequivocally true and valid no one size fits all.

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