The Future of Voice

Michala Hart, Head of Channel Strategy at Exponential-e, looks at how the channel can manage the transition to SIP trunking

The rise of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking is a topic that’s once again set to preoccupy the channel this year. Over the past few years Voice over IP (VoIP) and cloud based voice services have captured more and more of the market as businesses continue to look for methods to improve and simplify voice services. With SIP trunking being the technology of choice through which to deliver VoIP and cloud, many think that 2016 may be the year that their rise leads to SIP outperforming its ‘predecessor’ ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Networks) across the board. Where ISDN uses copper networks to integrate speech and data on the same line, SIP trunking effectively means the Internet replaces the conventional telephone trunk, allowing businesses an easier method through which to communicate with other voice services worldwide.

As a result, resellers are scrambling to figure out how to convert ISDN to SIP with their customers before their competitors get there. So what are the main issues channel partners need to consider in this new world of voice and cloud?

Quality is key

SIP trunking has been so highly revered because it is clearly outperforming ISDN in terms of giving enterprises the strong foundations needed for the delivery of voice services.

However, none of its benefits can be realised if the quality of the network is inadequate. Ultimately, SIP trunking can only be as reliable as the network on which it resides. As such, it’s vital for the channel to select partners that can offer uncontended connectivity. This facilitates high quality voice calls while minimising any instances of jitter, latency performance or packet loss and limits any potential downtime. By using trusted providers to manage the transfer to SIP, the channel can help customers realise the benefits that it delivers.

Value adds

For the channel, SIP is both an opportunity but also a threat. While quality of the network is the key foundation on which to build an excellent SIP proposition, channel partners that do not offer value added services beyond pure dial tone SIP will undoubtedly lose out.

It is true that traditionally, SIP is a very sticky product and provides a recurring revenue stream. However, resellers may lose existing customers to services that offer data and voice packages combined. Luckily, because SIP is delivered off a platform that can deliver other services as well, those can be added really easily by the reseller. Advanced additional services such as call recording, audio conferencing, call queuing can be offered alongside SIP, which not only saves their customers money but can be marketed as a comprehensive voice and data package, customised to a business’ particular needs. Moving forwards, the channel needs to capitalise on its unique ability to deliver a bespoke SIP solution to customers, in a way that some vendors may not be able to directly.

Blurred lines

While a lot of the discussion has centred around how channel partners can focus on selling SIP to their customers instead of ISDN, the new world means that the lines between data resellers and voice resellers are becoming blurred. End customers generally have no interest in knowing the intricacies of the technical method through which their cloud or voice services are being delivered – resellers must do the advanced thinking for them. Instead, customers look at the characteristics of the services – in this case, flexibility, resiliency and cost effectiveness, which is why SIP is gaining in popularity.

However, channel partners don’t want to make the mistake of shoehorning their sales into one area and forgetting the rest. While the transition to SIP is the immediate challenge at hand, they need to look further into the future in order to ensure they stay relevant to their customer’s needs. Today it may be ISDN, tomorrow it will be SIP, and a few years down the line we may be looking at hosted services.

Clearly, the key for channel partners who can come out of this transition unscathed and with a winning strategy is implementing a strategy that incorporates a new ability, rather than a new technology, on top of their existing service offerings. So, for example, resellers that currently have a focus on voice can use this move to get into data. Likewise, those solely selling data offerings can get into voice. They need to tool up for the new world – a world in which there will be a constant stream of innovative new entrants in the market – in order to ensure they can manage transitions. Whether that’s SIP, or whichever technology development best serves businesses in the future.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine