The VoIP connection

VoIP and UC have long been regarded as a sorely missed opportunity in the Middle East

Tags: Almasa IT DistributionComstorFVC - First Video Communications IncorporationOptimus Technology and Telecom
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The VoIP connection
By  Clayton Vallabhan Published  November 20, 2012

VoIP and UC have long been regarded as a sorely missed opportunity in the Middle East. This is partly due to the regulation of local telcos and ISPs who fear these technologies will impact their revenues. However, with worldwide adoption on the rise, how much longer can the Middle East hold out on progress?

The Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) market in the Middle East has taken a while to take off, but of recent there has been a lot of interest and the uptake to the channel is growing at an exceptional rate.

VoIP is still highly regulated in the Middle East but this has to change eventually, or else the operators risk losing out on the tide and the innovation that VoIP will bring. Voice revenues for telecoms operators are in terminal decline, and more people are moving towards using data on their smartphones.

The expected move to mobile VoIP is also something that is just flickering on the horizon in the Middle East, but has already taken off internationally. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets flooding the market, will only strengthen the adoption of mobile VoIP. Some analysts reports state that the international mobile VoIP market will bring in $2.5 billion in 2012.

Another factor that has nurtured a market for VoIP is the financial uncertainty that is driving consumers to be increasingly cash conscious. The latest Visiongain report titled, ‘The Voice over Internet Protocol Market 2012-2017’, indicated that that global revenues for VoIP will reach $65bn in 2012.  It is clear that VoIP threatens operator profits, but the technology looks like it will rise to popularity, especially with the rollout of LTE over the next few years.

Meera Kaul, MD, Optimus Technology and Telecommunications, said that national carriers are gearing up to offer IP based services. “The VoIP market in the Gulf region is highly regulated by the national telecom companies. In the Middle East market, the national carriers are gearing up to offer IP based services (as a part of their strategy to become value added services providers); however, they maintain strict control over alternative methods of VoIP like Skype. Policies of these carriers allow only licensed providers of VoIP services to legally operate in these markets. VoIP services are perceived as high threats to the revenues of traditional national carriers.”

As for Unified Communication (UC) market, there has been positive signs of growth. Roger El-Tawil, executive director of Almasa Value Distribution, said in the past three years, the demand for UC has risen. “In the past three years we have seen the demand for UC rise, due to the benefits it brings. Organisations are seeing what UC can do for their staff by keeping the staff in unison while giving the customer a simple but effective user-friendly experience,” added El-Tawil.

K.S. Parag, MD at FVC, said before the UC market reaches a stage of adoption, it will have to go through a rough stage of preparing and training staff to have the most up to date expertise and sharpest skill sets. Only then will people be able to successfully introduce and deploy UC to the market.

There are many solutions that are being pushed into the channel by a variety of different distributors. “FVC represent two of the largest names in the VoIP and UC market. One is the integrated UC solution from Polycom integrated with Microsoft Lync and the other is Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s complete range of UC and VoIP solutions.”

Optimus, Westcon Group and Almasa Value Distribution distribute Avaya’s complete range of UC solutions.

Mohammed Areff, MD, Gulf and Pakistan for Avaya said that its offerings are concentrated on the basis of effective delivery models and robust and scalable architecture. Areff said: “Once this foundation is in place, we provide any enterprise the reliability and agility to enhance their business using the communications channel of their choice - voice, video, IM, and or a full immersive collaboration experience on the device of their choice.”

Wael Abdulal, collaboration manager at Cisco UAE, said Cisco has launched 61 UC products globally and it is looking at bringing most of these products to the Middle East market.  Abdulal added that Cisco has designed several solutions specifically for various vertical markets.

“The growing requirement for video is driving demand for our UC solutions. In addition, we have solutions specifically designed for several key verticals. We launched HealthPresence for healthcare, Virtual Class Room for education, Expert Agent for banking and TelePresence over Satellite for Oil & Gas,” said Abdulal.

The benefits for VoIP and UC are numerous, the most important of which is cost saving, which directly affects the bottom line of an organisation. Furthermore, VoIP and UC enhance productivity and can also save time and travel, especially with the presence feature in UC.

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