UC continues to surge – but dominated by platform providers. Think local for future relevance.

UC continues to surge – but dominated by platform providers. Think local for future relevance.

Today’s UC market is dominated, not by operators, but by platform providers that deal directly with business customers. How can operators recapture relevance and benefit from market growth?

UC growth is benefiting external platforms – not operators

UC has enjoyed staggering growth in recent months, driven largely by the demands of new work patterns. According to reports, the market grew by almost 30%, while revenue surged by nearly 25% to reach an impressive $47 billion.

These are big numbers – and operators need to pay attention. There are relatively few growth opportunities that can yield such stellar results. In particular, it’s interesting to note that this market is now dominated by a handful of players – none of which is an operator in the traditional sense. Operators continue to risk being left behind as simply providers of connectivity that enables users to access external platforms.

This trend is also visible in the announcement of the shortlist for the UC awards 2021, supported by UK-based publication, UC Today. None of those shortlisted are traditional operators – and yet many operators have significant B2B customer bases.

Operators have three key levers to push for future relevance

So, what’s going on here? It seems that the market growth and expansion is being missed by operators. They provide connectivity but are losing ground to other solution providers. How can they recover lost ground and ensure relevance as the UC world continues to evolve?

Well, it’s important to think about what operators offer – ubiquitous, national and international reach, high-speed access and connectivity. Next, universally recognised identifiers – in the shape of fixed and mobile numbers. Finally, the ability to control and deliver quality of service. The performance of an external application depends entirely on the quality of the connection available, so the ability to manage this is important.

Put together, these are significant assets. External platforms essentially represent siloes. Operator services are all about interoperability, while external service platforms are basically islands. They offer a great experience to users of the same platform, but are typically disconnected, so they neither align with different solutions nor with other user channels, such as mobile and fixed devices.

Integration and federation remain key and underexplored

It’s well known that, for example, Teams can be integrated with fixed and mobile voice services for call origination and termination. But, more can be done, for example, by using network capabilities to discover and manage status and to present this back to Teams clients.

We do this in a number of cases – enabling Teams users to combine mobile or fixed line status with their Teams applications, so it can be shared with other users. This offers more than simply enabling call termination and forwarding, and make operator-delivered capabilities core to the offer – an easy upgrade for Teams users that are also, say, mobile subscribers.

Similarly, external UC platforms can be integrated with others, allowing users to transition from one to another, or to reach users of one platform from a different solution. Operators can and should take a role here, enabling users to seamlessly hop from one to another, all while leveraging their ubiquitous mobile and/or fixed identities.

And, as we move towards full 5G standalone, the ability to control QoS for specific scenarios and applications will move from the margins to centre stage. While this has been generally possible for a while, it’s set to take off as enterprises recognise the value of the ability to dynamically set performance parameters.

Define local strategies to build relevance

All of this means that, while operators have been overtaken by UC platform providers that have built their own direct customer relationships, there are numerous opportunities to recapture relevance coming up.

Operators need to recognise the levers they have available and build strategies that are tailored for their individual markets. After all, the current leading UC providers are global in focus – which means they are unlikely to pay attention to local market needs. That’s the job of operators who can use their reach, their numbers and the identifies these represent, and their ability to control network and service performance at a highly granular level.

So, now’s the time to work out a strategy for the future – in which operators take a long hard look at their existing B2B service portfolios and determine how they should evolve to meet gaps, serve local needs and become relevant to business customers. Otherwise, they will continue to lose ground.


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