The Mobile PBX – Market Growth for the Masses

The iPhone has attracted tremendous coverage throughout the media and has captured popular imagination. It’s hardly surprising – it’s a great device with some fabulous features. In addition to the evolution of the App Store model, the iPhone has had an impact on the wider smart-phone market, proving to be a catalyst for innovation as rival manufacturers strive to regain the initiative. And yet, in overall terms, while smart-phone sales continue to grow, they still represent a relatively small proportion of the handset market – around 10%, if our estimates are correct (we used comparative figures for 2007 from Gartner and Strategy Analytics). Notwithstanding growth since 2007, smart-phones are still in the minority.

Why does this matter? Well, one myth about Mobile PBX applications is that they require enhancements to the handset or the most sophisticated multi-functional devices; in other words, deploying a Mobile PBX service forces mobile customers to upgrade to smart-phone handsets. That’s clearly an economic impediment to the success of such services. With smart-phone penetration still relatively low – and largely confined to mature markets or the wealthiest subscribers – it would be a significant barrier to the successful launch of such a service.

Except that it is a real myth. At least as far as Gintel is concerned. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of users have standard mobile handsets, not smart-phone devices, however desirable they might be. Mobile PBX is an application that needs to be seamlessly available to all users who select the service, without any need of upgrade to either their handset device or the software it runs.

That might not be the case with some solutions, but Gintel’s version of Mobile PBX is designed to be available to any mobile user, irrespective of the handset they possess. This is essential, as the benefits of mobile PBX applications should not be restricted to the relatively small proportion of the mobile user base that has the latest (and most expensive technology). Not only is that rather a hard sell, it’s also economically untenable in a global economy.

Mobile operators can use Mobile PBX applications to offer enterprise services cost effectively across all segments of their market – from corporate customers with hundreds of users to the SME market. In most countries, more than 90% of people employed in private enterprise work in companies with fewer than 20 employees. To reach out to all of these potential customers requires a solution that can be deployed economically, without disruption and with minimal user intervention.

One of the great advantages of the mobile PBX is that it allows mobile operators to offer enterprise services to just about any customer. It’s not just about the extension of PBX functionality to mobile users, but it’s also about growing market share and taking such features to users for whom a classical PBX is not a viable proposition. Imagine an enterprise with 12 employees, but with a single incoming line – not an uncommon situation. Perhaps they are considering a new telephony solution, but the high start-up costs of a traditional PBX present a significant barrier. If instead of providing a solution with a high initial CAPEX, the mobile operator can offer a service with the features they need from a PBX but with no CAPEX and only monthly service charges, this could well prove a compelling proposition. A mobile PBX is all about market growth and development, not just about a winning proposition for users already familiar with the benefits of PBX services. Any solution that adds in CAPEX by demanding adoption of costly smart-phones for deployment simply isn’t viable and certainly won’t help mobile operators extend their market reach. Such a solution would be a solution for the rich, not the masses.

That’s why it’s essential that such a solution be available across any device, whether it is the latest gadget, such as an iPhone, or the humblest 2G handset. For rapid market penetration, in any economy, Mobile PBX has to be a pure service that leaves the device unaffected, requires no CAPEX on the part of the customer, and can be adopted en masse by enterprise users. At Gintel, we really understand this – why not talk to us and share our experience?

Tore Saeter,
September 2009

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