About this blog

News and analysis of developments in the enterprise communication industry and market with primary focus on Europe.

The author aims to tap into ideas, insights and thoughts of the readers to get varied perspectives.

Views expressed in this blog are solely the author's opinion and in no way reflect those of his employer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

ShoreTel-The world is Orange

One of the leading IP PBX players in the United States, ShoreTel, has been slowly developing a footprint in Europe. Armed with a strong team, interesting product, and granular pricing-the vendor has already established footprints in UK, Spain, Benelux, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland.
I saw a demo done by Jerome Joanny, their International Product Manager. Honestly, from what I saw- their solution is very easy to use, simple and user friendly. Although, I didnot test the whole range of features it became obvious that the solution was designed keeping the user in mind. Jeremy showed us their new feature- ring back tone. He said their product development team is working very hard to bring in mobile phone type features and functionalities into the PBX.

ShoreTel solution fits the 100-200 user segment very nicely. Steve Timmerman, VP of Marketing believes that his product is a good fit for a wide segment of the market. Their a-la-carte pricing model allows customers to buy as they grow. With close to 56 partners in EMEA, ShoreTel is aiming to build a momentum. The vendor has successfully leveraged the reach of service providers such as British Telecom in Spain.

One of the USPs of ShoreTel is around customer satisfaction. Although, I haven't delved into the details of how they get it measured, the passion in their team to uphold the levels of customer satisfaction and beat it is quite incredible. In my numerous discussion over the last couple of years, I have consistently seen this message come across. I must say that overtime it has become powerful.

Although they are a strong player in the US, ShoreTel faces the same challenges as most small players in Europe. They are trying to consolidate their resources and gain traction, with customer satisfaction in mind. Ken Bailey their EMEA Marketing Manager pointed out the criticality of channel development. They are predominantly two-tiered except for Germany and their growth rate is dependent on the selection of the best-fit channel. In the last few months, ShoreTel has been active in the Nordics-led by Justine Cross. They have not only recruited two VADs but also have gained some customers.

I think that ShoreTel faces competition from BCM 50/200, Cisco ISR & Call Manager Express, Hipath 4000, Avaya IP office, Ericsson MD Evolution, Alcatel OmniPCX office, Inter-Tel 5000/7000 amongst others. Between them, shipments account for in excess of 2 million lines in the 100-200 user segment in Europe. From top of my head, the market size of 50-250 user segment in Europe is approximately 28 million lines. IP penetration in this segment is in low teens. If we buy ShoreTel's message that their TCO is lower than Cisco, Avaya and Nortel and that their customer satisfaction is the highest, their solution is a good bet. I recommend ShoreTel to greenfield sites and organisations that have a clear IP adoption strategy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Roaming 'rip-off'-Game over

Telecoms.com reported-"A committee of the European Parliament has backed proposals to cap roaming charges for mobile calls made abroad, voting in favour of a Eur40 cents (£0.27) per minute ceiling for an outgoing call and Eur15 cents (£0.10) per minute for an incoming call.
The proposal will be put in front of the full 785-seat EU assembly in May which will decide whether a cap on roaming charges should be automatic, or require customers to request it from their operators."
This news is good for some while bad for others. I am sure GSMA and the operator will agrue that this is a bad move and will affect the profitability of mobile carriers. However, bad mood is expected to reign with innovative players such as LGC Wireless and others, since the proposal diminishes the value of their offerings. It is to be noted that extortionate roaming bills and relatively higher access rates have help form an alternative industry- one that aimed to help consumers and enterprises beat these toll gates. I call the offer 'mobile toll-bypass' untility.
The good news is for the consumers. In advanced countries in Western Europe, the average mobile usage per person is just 4 minutes a day. Using the same infrastructure and services deployed in emerging countries, users talk for much longer- and pay far less-in charges adjusted to purchasing power parity. Good news is for non-mobile carriers, if this proposal becomes legislation they would be able to predict their costs with greater accuracy and price their products more appropriately.
Overall, I think this move will help the industry in predicting costs, and determining value in roaming. The purse of the consumers won't shrink-I believe, they will instead take more for the same money. Licensed mobile operators will remain in business for longer- as this move takes away some cream out of the value propositions of alternate solutions.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Carrier Hosted UC

In a move that could potentially shape the future infrastructure deployment scenario within SMBs, Innovative Communication Alliance (ICA) formed between Nortel and Microsoft has announced its intent to offer carrier hosted converged office solutions to small and medium businesses (SMBs) and enterprises.

It is believed that service providers will begin customer trials during H2, 2007 with GA released by end of 2007.

Hosted telephony solutions have gained some traction in the market. Forecasts suggests 15% of all enterprise telephony shipments in Europe could be non-premise by 2010. Despite the growth rate, non-premise deployments would still constitute a very small percentage in terms of installed base. The primary challenges associated with hosting have been credibility, reliability, richness of the solution and quality of service.

Nortel-Microsoft's entry into the market will alleviate the restraint around credibility. The new carrier hosted converged office solutions include e-mail, instant messaging, VoIP, click-to-call, video conferencing and other multimedia services. We have experienced mature network based E-mail, IM, video conferencing services. However, most of them are disparate and are consumer grade. Network based click-to-call is yet to be very popular. The case for network based VoIP is quite similar to hosted VoIP.

I reckon that with adquate security framework, asset management policies, flexible but robus process and binding SLAs, these services can add tremendous business value. Carriers on the other hand will be able to derive greater value from their existing network investments and resources.