Market musings

Business VoIP Trends for 2018: Mobility, AI and Digitization

by Sasha Viasasha
December 2, 2017

Voice over IP (VoIP) is just over 20 years old. In just two decades, IP telephony has evolved to the point where VoIP ranks in first place as the most used office phone system, supporting 36% of business today. VoIP providers turn analog sounds into digital packets that are transferred as data across the internet. Video over IP and data over IP are handled the same as voice on business networks, making it easier to fit more information into a tighter channel.

The changing telephony landscape

Companies that still use public switched telephone networks (PSTN), aka plain old telephone service (POTS), come in second, representing about 24% of businesses. The third major category is primary rate interface (PRI) at 11%. This is preferred by large enterprises and includes hardware like ISDN circuits and T1 lines. Virtual phone systems are the newest, fastest growing category. Currently, only 8% of companies have adopted the next generation of business phone systems, but mobility is driving the SaaS model over ownership. 

PBX systems remain a popular choice, whether the business is using VoIP or not. Approximately 30% of businesses use either a cloud-based, hosted PBX delivered with VoIP or a on-premise PBX delivered on local servers with hard-wiring and line management software. That total does not include virtual PBX systems, where a VoIP-enabled SaaS application or mobile app provides all the basic features of a PBX, such as call transfer, find-me/follow-me routing, employee directories, voicemail, and an AI auto-attendant.

The world of business VoIP is likely to see big changes in the coming months in terms of changes in mobility, AI and digitization.

The future is mobile

The strongest driver of virtual PBX adoption rates is that phone systems are going mobile. This is just a small part of the larger trend toward mobility that is coming to define the future of work. In PwC’s special report The Workforce of the Future – Competing Forces Shaping 2030, mobility plays a key role in their projections for the decade ahead.

The report says that organizations need to be “stripped down and nimble,” attracting talent that moves frequently and stays only as long as a project lasts. 60% of professionals surveyed said that “few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future.”

Hard-wired phone systems and the heavy investment they require will be much harder to justify, while virtual phone systems, which move capital expenditures to operating expense, make it much easier to add and delete users.  

Voice UX

As 5G mobile networks come online in more locations, business VoIP users will see wireless speeds 10X faster than 4G. Upload speeds of up to 10 Gbps, along with greater accuracy in voice compression, will result in decreased packet loss, less jitter, fewer echoes and more realistic voice quality. Tandem improvements in networks and hardware are creating a better voice experience. 

AI grows up

The largest telecom providers are betting big on the ability of AI to improve the quality of service for callers before, during and after the call.

Before the call, AI and pattern-seeking algorithms, developed by carriers like AT&T and Verizon, are finding breakdowns before they happen and building self-healing networks. Prototypes are already in operation, fixing problems faster with less risk to human repair crews. Improvement like these are behind better voice quality in HD Voice, VOLTE and other VoIP-based offerings from the mobile carriers.

During the call, AI-based voice UI programs like Siri and Alexa are answering more calls using natural language processing (NLP) and automatically switching to match the callers language or dialect. Around 8 out of 10 US businesses already have an AI attendant or have plans to have one by 2020. In a survey from Information Solutions Group, 87% of callers are happy working with AI attendants as long as they can handle essential functions. Voice UI is growing in popularity and has benefited from many recent advances in voice UX.

After the call, call analytics programs with AI logic engines can evaluate full conversations and speech patterns in real-time to produce insights into employee productivity and customer behavior. This insights lead to better resource allocation as well as smarter targeting for company messaging.

Digital transformation

The end of traditional land lines and the dominance of digital has been widely reported by telecom analysts. Network World concluded. “Replacement of the PSTN with a global VoIP-only network delivering service provider wired voice and wireless voice is not a question of if, but when.”

The digitalization of voice is another area where a larger trend -- in this case digital transformation -- is sweeping up the telecom industry in its path. SaaS and virtual phone systems are more valuable than ever because they provide a smarter path to future-proofing business communications options by outsourcing the responsibility for adapting to these rapid tech cycles.

Business VoIP has grown into the new de facto telecom backbone as virtual PBX app makers and VoIP incorporate advance in voice UX, wearable IoT, and energy harvesting tech for mobile devices.

The business world is seeing seismic shifts in how people connect each other, how they interact with intelligent machines and insights derived from the latest data analytics. When you read about how AI and telecom are changing, you don't often how it can facilitate conversations around the world so people connect more easily and solve problems fast, but this is arguably its most noble endeavor.

Spoke Phone is a virtual phone system designed to be managed and deployed across your mobile network. To learn more about Spoke, including how our AI is powering the next generation voice UX, sign up for an interactive demo and learn how to transform your mobile phone or business phone line into a smart office phone system.

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