Geared for growth

Unified Communications (UC) solutions offer vendors, distributors and reseller partners huge opportunities in both the enterprise and SMB sector

Tags: Aastra TechnologiesAl Jammaz DistributionAvaya IncorporationCisco Systems IncorporatedFVC - First Video Communications Incorporation
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Geared for growth
By  Clayton Vallabhan Published  May 4, 2012

Unified Communications (UC) solutions offer vendors, distributors and reseller partners huge opportunities in both the enterprise and SMB sector. A good UC solution is one that helps customers to reap the benefits of communicating using a unified platform, leveraging integration with different solutions to open up new ways to communicate, collaborate and share information, writes Clayton Vallabhan.

With the cost of broadband internet slowly beginning to come down in the Middle East region and the expected adoption of unified communications (UC), video conferencing and collaboration solutions in business, the regional IT channel sector is starting 2012 with a sense of belief and optimism that opportunities will open up in these segments in the next 12 months.

Although UC, video conferencing and collaboration solutions have been in the market for a while, it’s the increased interest from businesses across various sectors in the region that has led channel partners to explore opportunities in this segment. A useful UC solution enables collaboration across organisations, accelerates user adoption, takes into account the consumerisation of IT, allows enterprises to leverage their existing IT infrastructure and seeks to achieve business agility through the cloud.

Networking and infrastructure resellers are being told left and right that video is a brave new world: much talked about in the past decade, and finally an explosive growth opportunity thanks to video conferencing solutions’ role in UC, the affordability and interoperability of video solutions, and the expansion of services opportunities around video. Even as the resale of video hardware and end-points has slipped out of fashion in line with video gear becoming commoditised, resellers that develop a services capability in the UC and video conferencing space are tipped for growth and success in this segment.

UC landscape

The market is undoubtedly heating up and research firm Gartner holds that the global video conferencing services market alone is expected to reach about $3.9 billion by 2013, with a compound annual growth rate of about 24% from 2008 to 2013.

The sales of telepresence hardware, even with the general term ‘telepresence’ loosely defined, is also on the rise – $567 million in 2009, and projected to be $2.7 billion by 2015, according to ABI Research.

According to analyst firm Frost and Sullivan, the UC market in the Middle East region is expected to reach $235 million by 2014. The firm says UC can benefit businesses by enabling high-definition video conferencing and real-time discussions for employees that are based remotely in various countries.

KS Parag, MD, FVC, a regional value-added distributor, said as technology changes and IT infrastructure improves across the region, the company is seeing a wider application for UC and video solutions, making it not just affordable but key to improved communications. Parag said it means that organisations can leverage and optimise their resources and get better ROI from their investments in this space, translating into better earning capabilities for the regional channel.

Parag said there are two areas that resellers need to focus on within the UC segment and these are: they need to understand their customers’ business and help them to understand the true value of deploying a UC solution and secondly, partners need to invest in the right technical skills set within their organisation to help their clients migrate to the right UC solutions that would add value.

Pradeep Angeveetil, regional manager-MEA, LifeSize Communications, said UC and video conferencing are definitely enjoying growth in this region but at the moment both are being purchased independently.

“The need to integrate UC and video communications is still in its infancy. LifeSize has one of the most comprehensive range of video communications solutions in the video conferencing segment. We have the capability to address varied business needs from large infrastructure meeting rooms, to video solutions in the cloud to interoperating with multiple mobile devices,” Angeveetil said.

Asim Saud AlJammaz, vice president at Saudi based Al-Jammaz Distribution, agreed and said three years ago, the potential of the UC market and the ability for end-users to adopt this technology was not clear to regional resellers. For starters, said AlJammaz, internet bandwidth was not available cheaply, the cost of broadband and, hardware and software was prohibitive. However, he said today, a lot of these obstacles are no longer there as consumers are able to have up to 40Mbs broadband speed in their home for as low as $100 a month and the cost of equipment has become reasonably affordable.

“We see a lot of the advanced organisations in the public and private sector in the region, especially in education, adopting UC solutions,” he said.

Wael Abdulal, collaboration manager, Cisco UAE, had a similar view and said: “The UC and video conferencing solutions market has taken off in the Middle East. Companies across all business segments and verticals are investing in UC solutions along with video solutions to save money and increase staff productivity.”

Convergence

While the video conferencing solutions segment may be in its infancy in the Middle East, customers are adopting UC and video conferencing solutions in their business.

Munzer Aloush, regional sales manager, TelePresence, Cisco said that while Cisco has a full portfolio of solutions, it is the potential for collaboration between the different solutions that is most interesting.

The Cisco UC line up includes IP telephony offerings, back-end infrastructure, plus hard and soft end-points. The customer collaboration set on the other hand includes agent desktop tools, IVR and software for the core contact centre and analytics. In the TelePresence product segment, Aloush outlined that the company offers best-in-class synchronous in-person communications, offerings designed to ease the creation and sharing of video content.

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