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GENBAND Perspectives 15: Polycom Hot on Hosted Voice

May 28, 2015

VoIP Handset maker Polycom has no worries and a lot of upside with the growth of hosted voice, while WebRTC doesn't bother the company that much. It's an interesting perspective when mobile continues to grow in prominence and every year is (supposedly) the year that businesses will stop buying desktop phones.




"The hosted voice space’s continued market growth is around 24.5, 25 percent," said Gary Testa, Polycom Vice President of Service Provider Solutions. "Handset-side growth is at 30 percent... We want to make sure we build products supported by call control vendors, not competing with them.  We want to stay close with them...  What we don't do, we don't operate services, we're not a service provider ourselves."

Success in the hosted marketplace depends on being able to quickly get phones configured and deployed.  "If people are doing [configuration] manually, it can often leads to churn, and it generally happens in the first 60 days.  Our experience is that once service is turned up, there are no problems." 

Testa cited GENBAND's work on automate provisioning  and tight integration between the two company's products as reasons behind a number of customer wins, including Bell Canada and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).   The UC Davis contract includes +40,000 handsets plus all other infrastructure, along with the ability to deliver remote experts for consulting via videoconference.

Currently, 50 percent of Polycom handsets end up on open source and Asterisk-based platforms, but non-Asterisk platform sales are growing at a rate of three to four times those of Asterisk.  Non-Asterisk platform growth is faster because companies are able to invest in sales and marketing rather than having to spend additional money on maintenance and feature development.

"The tradeoff is that it's more difficult to differentiate on a switch feature basis when using a commercial platform, you have the same set of features. So the key is how do you package your offering, how do you market it?" Testa said.

Conferences phones are an area where Polycom expects changes in the future. "We're a solid presence on the center of the table," said Testa. "The next step in the development of the conference phone is collaboration."

The stock conference phone will become a hub for voice and video collaboration, with wireless capabilities so it can add modular pieces including speakers, microphones, cameras, and the ability to drive video.

One area where Testa isn't gung-ho is WebRTC.

"WebRTC to me is embedding a codec in a browser," he said. "You still need to build a client, build call control, you still need an overall solution, which is great, but it is just another alternative endpoint strategy.  It's not going to revolutionize anything. You can do click-to-call with Kandy and you can do web-based dialing out of your MCUs.

"One thing I do think is going to become significantly more important is process integration in collaboration.  Where WebRTC will really take off, where WebRTC will play is in 'Show me, help you.'  Show me a problem or a situation by you showing me a picture of what you are seeing.  I see support opportunities around interfaces that are too complex for the average person. They call for technical support and they don't know what to call it... it takes a 40 minute call just to describe things. "

WebRTC provides real time video for a customer to illustrate a situation -- in this case, a picture is not only worth a thousand words, but real money because it saves call center time in trying to understand a problem and gets problems solved faster, resulting it better customer satisfaction.

"The panacea of WebRTC solving all problems is wrong," Testa stated. "People believe it was a solution, but it needs to be wrapped with customer-usable applications - without the process, it's just a browser with a codec in it."




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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