Telecoms operators rarely shy away from making bold claims when it comes to unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), promising a seamless, enterprise-grade service that will generate a meaningful boost in end user productivity.

In reality though, many operators are still encumbered by legacy systems, structures, and sometimes even cultures, that make delivering on these claims much more challenging. The pressure on operators to get with the times will only increase as new technology and competitors come to the fore.

It is hard to overstate the UC&C opportunity. The global market is forecast to be worth US$48 billion a year by 2020, with the enterprise sector expected to account for more than half of this sum. Between 2012 and 2022, the global enterprise UC&C market is predicted to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15%.

The benefits of UC&C are already being felt too. A recently-published survey of business executives undertaken by a European incumbent telecoms operator revealed that 90% said collaboration has improved productivity in their workplace.

However, telcos run the risk of missing out. Despite promising to guide valued enterprise customers through their digital transformation – which in addition to network and cloud infrastructure almost always includes deploying the latest UC&C and digital workspace technologies – recent research indicates that these same valued enterprise customers are actually becoming less satisfied with their service provider.

One explanation for why this is happening is that operators’ internal structures are not yet set up to deliver a true unified communications experience. Audio, video, and Web conferencing services sit in separate silos with their own sales and customer support teams; teams that in some instances are competing with one another.

As such, telcos’ own businesses are playing catch-up to the promises they have made; promises that their customers have already bought into. As a result, corporate clients looking for a tightly-integrated, telco-grade UC&C service hear all the right messages from their operator, but those messages don’t necessarily tally with the experience of the service itself.

What’s more, the rise of enterprise mobility means there is strong demand for UC&C on any device, connected to any network. This adds yet another layer of complexity for the service provider. The question of whose job it is to provide technical support to a video-conferencing customer trying to access a meeting from an employee-owned device connected to a hotel or airport WiFi network, is one that some telcos are still trying to answer. The subject of whose job it is to provide a single bill for all these seemingly-integrated-but-actually-quite-disparate UC&C services, is one that some service providers still have issues with.

Adapting to meet the demands of today’s UC&C customers requires not just technical change on the part of the telco, but can involve a change in management culture and working methods too. This ensures that different departments practice what they preach, collaborating with one another to deliver a joined-up sales and support experience. The alternative is that departments abdicate responsibility, blame other teams for any shortfall in meeting a customer’s requirements, and ultimately cause friction between employees, and dissatisfaction among customers.

Operators need to work quickly to get their houses in order, as the evolution of technology and competition will only serve to pile on the pressure.

For example, virtual reality (VR), coupled with ultrafast network connectivity – whether that is fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or 5G – has the potential to add a new dimension to UC&C. VR will further blur the lines between in-person meetings and conferencing, since all participants will technically be in the same room as one another, some physically, others virtually. VR also has the potential to make collaboration between employees more rich and intuitive.

It is still early days, and some estimates put the value of the entire global VR market at $7 billion in 2018, with hardware accounting for $2.3 billion, and software making up the remaining $4.7 billion. It nonetheless represents an exciting opportunity for operators to be at the forefront of what could just be the next big thing in UC&C, provided their businesses are structured accordingly, of course.

As well as ushering in new ways to collaborate, technological progress in networks will also subject operators to even greater competitive pressure from over-the-top (OTT) UC&C providers. As the Internet becomes faster and more reliable, so will the services that run on it, including conferencing and collaboration services. As the difference between ‘best effort’ Internet and carrier-grade connectivity becomes harder to discern, operators will have to leverage their strengths in customer experience and technical support to ensure their UC&C offerings continue to stand apart from those of the OTTs.

With robust demand among enterprises for UC&C, and time of the essence, operators might be better served by partnering with an expert in the field that can help them to amalgamate their audio, video, and Web-conferencing departments into a unified whole.


This article forms part of the Collaboration Center by PGi. Total Telecom has partnered with PGi to provide insights into the transformation of the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) market. The article is written by Total Telecom for PGi and does not necessarily reflect the views of Total Telecom. For more articles from the Collaboration Center, please CLICK HERE.