The More Things Change ...
Providers are finding it necessary to offer dial-tone services coupled with their fancy new platforms -- becoming total communications utilities reminiscent of Ma Bell.
The announcement just before Christmas that ShoreTel was acquiring Corvisa LLC involved a key trend that is becoming critical for firms with big plans as hosted/cloud communications providers. Although Corvisa has made more noise as a contact center provider, one of the advantages to ShoreTel is stated in the press release as follows:
The addition of Corvisa's SIP trunking to the ShoreTel solution portfolio will position ShoreTel as a SIP trunking provider, unlocking new revenue streams for ShoreTel and its channel partners while delivering simpler transactions for customers.
In a conversation with ShoreTel CMO Mark Roberts, , he confirmed that its channel partners have been asking when its offerings would include the PSTN access. Most of the VARs see it as necessary to compete with the carriers that provide packaged proposals or to counter the proposals based on other platforms that include dial-tone services as part of a complete offer. Not to be overlooked in the Corvisa deal is the international presence -- providers with global plans must be able to provide call control, data storage, and dial-tone from within the markets they are targeting.
The dial-tone trend is further reinforced by the recent Cisco announcement that the Spark collaboration platform was adding PSTN connectivity and the Microsoft E5 announcement that brought full PSTN access to the hosted Skype for Business / Office 365 platform. It is clear that to be a competitive and viable alternative, even the non-traditional workstream communications and collaboration (WCC) tools need to be able to replace the role of the old telephony solutions.
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Is it truly necessary? SMB customers are providing a clear indication through the most important method: their wallets. Many simply don't want the hassles of dealing with both a platform provider and a PSTN provider. It is a value proposition that carriers like CenturyLink, Verizon, etc., have pitched for years. Even manufacturers like Mitel have offered carrier services (ever since it acquired InterTel).
Where it has become basic table stakes is in the fully hosted / cloud-based solutions. A hybrid offering may work for some customers, including larger enterprises, but to justify the higher long term op-ex costs, buyers want simplicity. They want the telephony and UC or WCC solutions to be like other utilities, where a single entity is responsible for the complete service. Customers don't want to deal with multiple providers; they don't want to have to deal with the complexity and coordination required to turn up and keep the communications platforms operating. They will often pay extra to get a fully integrated holistic solution from a single entity: the proverbial "one throat to choke" (although the obvious goal is "one hand to shake").
What is mildly interesting to me is that this trend is a closing of a full circle. The industry saw the rise of the third-party interconnect companies, followed by the breaking up of the Bell System, further separating the switched telephone services. Now it is becoming clear that for long-term survival, providers must offer a complete package, especially in the hosted / cloud marketplace. Long live the communications utility! At least this time there are choices instead of a monopoly.
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.