Unified Communications Trends to Watch

Video Conferencing

Video Conferencing

Global unified communications (UC) revenue for the second quarter of 2013 grew 34 percent compared to the same quarter last year, gaining market share on traditional PBX alternatives, Infonetics reports. Experts see mainstream UC adoption as just beginning, with enterprises increasingly likely to adopt unified communications solutions in coming years. For businesses and investors looking to capitalize on this growth, it will pay to keep an eye on emerging UC trends.


With the release and reception of Google Glass and the advent of smartwatches, wearables have entered the UC market in a big way. Almost every major consumer electronics manufacturer is now developing smartwatches, including Microsoft, which has already pulled near the front of the unified communications pack. A UC-supporting wearable device could make an impact similar to that of what iPads made on the tablet market.

Wearable devices face some debugging obstacles, however. Efforts to imitate the navigational features of smartphones on a tinier screen are likely to frustrate users. Instead, a successful smartwatch will find its own niche by optimizing tasks it can do exceptionally well, such as notification alerts, and will interface with smartphones and other devices to support other tasks and provide a complete UC ecosystem.


With sales surpassing laptops and undercutting tablets, phablets are destined to occupy a place in the UC universe. In a unified communications context, phablets’ intermediary size can combine the portable convenience of smartphones with the screen visibility of tablets, as exemplified by the 6.4-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra. Phablets thus provide a flexible tool to support both audio-only voice communication and audio-visual videoconferencing.


One of the main UC advantages of phablets is providing screen sizes suitable for videoconferencing. Demands for lower cost and greater mobility have driven the videoconferencing market towards the cloud, forcing hardware solution vendors such as Cisco and Polycom to follow the lead of newer software video service providers, such as Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network.

As cloud videoconferencing grows, demand for smoother transmission and less lag between visual and audio signals has increased. Low bandwidth, high latency and inefficient routing can all cause delays. A high-speed Internet provider can limit interferences, but the market is ripe for more reliable programs to emerge.


Efforts to overcome videoconferencing performance, security and compliance issues have struggled against lack of industry standardization, which remains a missing component in today’s UC solutions. Attempts to negotiate a standard such as the Unified Communication Interoperability Forum have so far floundered because of rivalries among industry leaders, but the industry continues to move slowly but surely in this direction.


The trend towards standardization points towards another important dynamic driving UC development: the growth of competition. Cisco currently leads the market, with Microsoft quickly gaining ground. Lucent technology spinoff Avaya is poised for growth as the official telecommunications equipment supplier for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and Siemens is also running in the top ranks. These established players face stiff competition from rising rivals such as Twillio. Look for competition to heat up as the industry grows.

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