Middle East UC market spurred by investment surge
Frost & Sullivan cites virtualisation, cloud, BYOD as enablers for unified communication
The gradual shift from pure voice to voice plus video conferencing infrastructure is driving the growth of the unified communications (UC) market in the Middle East, according to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan.
Demand for comprehensive UC suites, rather than standalone applications, is bolstering market development as participants consolidate to strengthen their presence across UC segments in the region. Frost & Sullivan found that the Middle East UC market earned revenues of $361.9m in 2012 and estimates this will reach $679.1m in 2019.
The research covers enterprise telephony, video conferencing, contact centres, e-mail, unified clients, unified messaging, mobility and presence and integrated UC applications.
"The large influx of investment in communication and collaborative technologies by the government, financial services, telecom and IT sectors is giving a thrust to the UC market in the Middle East," said a Frost & Sullivan ICT analyst. "In particular, targeted government investment in knowledge-based industries and the focus on diversification will boost the uptake of UC solutions in the region."
The market is also gaining momentum with the proliferation of smartphones in the Middle East. The popularity of virtualisation and hybrid-based cloud models as well as the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is fuelling the adoption of middleware applications and soft clients that facilitate voice and video communications using mobile devices.
The rising significance of UC applications in the Middle East is expected to promote the use of Internet protocol-private branch exchange (IP-PBX) as it serves as a platform for any UC deployment. However, the high cost associated with IP deployment as well as insufficient awareness on its advantages is lowering market potential. The lack of interoperability among UC applications offered by different vendors is further limiting the scope of the market.
The current regulatory framework, which restricts the connection of public-switched telephone network lines with voice over IP (VoIP) is also curbing market expansion. This will cease being an issue when de-licensing, and the new telecom policy that allows licensees to offer VoIP services to businesses and consumers, take effect.
Another challenge is the unregulated organisation of distributors in the Middle East. To add to this, the severe shortage of skilled labour in the region is escalating the cost of business operations.
Nevertheless, investments in IP telephony, conferencing solutions, instant messaging/presence, and mobility are expected to continue as aggressive marketing campaigns by vendors help increase end-user awareness of the benefits of UC solutions, which include productivity, scalability, flexibility and lower total cost of operations.
"To succeed in the marketplace, UC solution providers must build a strong local and regional distribution channel, develop a competitive service positioning strategy, and deliver timely service to customers," advised the analyst. "They will also do well to team up with established local partners in order to forge lasting relationships with key end users."