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Recipients of the first round of national broadband stimulus grants, 17 states have good cause for celebration heading into 2010. Just before the holiday break the government began doling out a portion of the $7.2 billion allotted to improve broadband access, announcing $182 million for 18 projects.
Many of these grants will be used to expand access in rural regions of the country, which is vital to the economic recovery. Tens of thousands of new jobs will be created almost immediately and the benefits will continue to flow down from there. Small businesses – the backbone of the American economy — will gain new opportunities to grow and compete. High speed access will enable them to be more efficient, provide better customer service and expand their businesses. And this is just the beginning for the SMB market, nicely summarized by Hillicon Valley.
For consumers who have gone without broadband, a whole world of communications will open up enabling new ways to connect, anywhere, anytime from a variety of channels. Imagine grandparents living miles away from their little ones who can now ‘visit’ regularly by video. Parents can check in with kids away at college with the click of a mouse. Schools and libraries will get long needed upgrades, enabling students significantly expanded access to information.
Increasing broadband access for all Americans is a win-win, and getting the ball rolling sooner rather than later – even as some details are being ironed out –makes sense to kick-start the recovery effort. An important next step will be a renewed focus on the mapping effort– already in progress in a number of states through the first round of grants. The national map –expected to be complete in early 2011—will ensure funds are allocated properly to the communities most in need. The roll-out of the National Broadband plan – due in February – will also be a crucial part of this momentous effort, particularly in determining how to fund access for all Americans beyond what is allocated in the stimulus funds. Early estimates put costs in the range of $20 billion to as high as $350 billion. While there are many questions that remain unanswered and challenges ahead, these are exciting times, and what happens next is sure to significantly change how we learn, work and play.
In case you missed the recent news from Alcatel-Lucent, the telecommunications equipment maker is the latest to throw its hat in the applications ring. GigaOm offers a good overview of both the future potential and current shortcomings of this new offering.
From a high-level, the primary benefit is tied to the open APIs that will allow developers to tap the assets within service-provider networks. If all goes according to plan – the groups will then be able to work together to differentiate their applications and build new revenue streams. However at the moment, the options are limited and only mobile location applications are supported.
BroadSoft is quite a few steps ahead in the application marketplace arena. While we both use a RESTful API architecture, that is where the similarities end. With a full 18 months under our belts, the BroadSoft Xtended program has attracted more than 2,000 developers. Plus our platform enables applications that integrate with business-process software, mobile clients, desk phones and other devices to offer a much broader range of applications.
Alcatel’s marketplace-deployment model is also quite different than ours —they give service providers a gallery of applications and then point you to the developer. And as we announced just this past quarter at our annual users conference, we now have complete ecommerce enablement of our marketplace. Consumers can now download apps directly and start using them. Here are a few very cool examples of apps that can be found on the BroadSoft Marketplace, which were unveiled at our annual users’ conference in our always popular “Show Me the Apps” session:
- Microsoft CRM intergration – this full-service CRM app, delivers streamlined communications options for users that enable them to quickly find and communicate with the right person, improving work flow and, more importantly, customer satisfaction.
- Our app that integrates with Mobile Max extends real-time communications to the mobile device with one number, one device, and one address book.
- JoeDevloper’s app transcribes voice messages to text and email,and enables users to search messages by keyword in their inboxes.
In short, our business model is creating integrated, real-time communication options that you can quickly take to market, delivering a superior communication experience to consumers. That’s where apps are more than just the next big thing – they are a real game changer.
You can’t watch TV or read the papers this holiday season without coming across the issue of Net Neutrality. It’s been fascinating to watch how various groups have gone about debating this topic, spurred by the FCC looking into possible regulations. As the premier provider of VoIP applications to service providers, we’d like to weigh in on this topic. What the FCC decides has the potential to greatly benefit, or to greatly disrupt, the telecommunications industry moving forward.
Before we dive into Net Neutrality, maybe a good place to start is with what BroadSoft would like for the Internet as a whole. Here’s what we’d like to see promoted and protected:
- Accessibility – the Internet should be available to all Americans, and preferably via fast, broadband access wherever feasible. We applaud the FCC’s work in this area and it’s great to have in Chairman Genachowski someone who really “gets” how vital this access is for the productivity of individuals and the country.
- Openness – the Internet should be accessible via open standards and should not discriminate based on device or protocol.
- Privacy – consumers need protections so that they control how, when and by whom their personal information is viewed and/or used.
- Security – consumers deserve to have the safest, more secure networks and online experiences possible.
On Thursday, October 22nd the FCC approved a notice of proposed rule making that will look into what regulations are necessary to assure what they call the “Open Internet.” The principles are:
- Allow sending and receiving all lawful content.
- Allow all lawful applications and services.
- Allow all lawful devices that don’t harm the network.
- Allow access to all network, application, service and content providers.
- Ensure there is no discrimination against particular lawful content, applications, services and devices.
- Reveal practices necessary to allow for network management that might limit the other five principles.
What the FCC has laid out in principle is totally in line with how we look at the issue. The only thing that concerns us at BroadSoft is the focus on how service providers manage their networks. Restrictive regulations here could negatively impact progress and prevent consumers from enjoying the productivity and collaborative benefits of broadband access.
Why? Because of explosive Internet traffic growth. The telecom infrastructure provider Tellabs did a study in 2008 of industry professionals on this issue. Over half thought there was the chance the Internet could actually “break” without major investments! Other notable findings:
- Video is 30% of Internet traffic today, and will be 75% in five years
- 80% of respondents felt that operators need freedom in managing their networks to address congestion
- 81% see mobile video as an even heavier burden for networks
So why hasn’t the Internet collapsed (yet anyway!) under the weight of such growth? The biggest reason is because service providers have invested billions of dollars in their networks, and they are now well positioned to see a return on that investment. The Internet backbone today is at a critical juncture, migrating from infrastructure designed to support the transmission of analog phone calls via circuit-switching to all IP architecture.
As the survey figures show, internet traffic growth is because of the new IP, real-time communication options we as users are all choosing. Video usage in particular is soaring, and the explosion of mobile internet usage is just beginning.
It’s critical we get the regulations right as our national communications infrastructure undergoes a massive migration from circuit-switched to fully IP.
The FCC has an important role to play as the Internet migrates to a fully IP infrastructure in this country. We think it’s exciting to have a chairman and an agency that clearly give these issues the priority they deserve. We simply suggest the commission remember that a powerful reason behind the Internet’s growth and innovation and productivity has been the absence of excess regulation. The competition to provide advanced services to users is already robust, and as we expand broadband access let’s not burden the Internet with regulations from a by-gone era.
Recently en route to Panama, I spent my time on the plane as I usually do—going through a stack of magazines to catch up on what’s going on and get some new ideas. But an article in Technology Review entitled “Urban Renewal” got me thinking about an old idea: telecommuting.
Did you know that half the world’s population currently lives in urban areas? By 2050, 70 percent will live in and around cities. The TR article discusses how in the future, transportation systems will have to change dramatically to handle the mass movement of people to and from work every day without negatively affecting the environment. Traffic here on DC’s Capitol Beltway is truly brutal today—I can’t imagine what it’ll be like 40 years from now.
So what happened to the idea of telecommuting? I’m surprised at the generally low level of telecommuting today. More telecommuting would certainly ease road congestion, cut fuel consumption and reduce pollution—not to mention the amount of stressful, unproductive time that so many people spend sitting in traffic jams every workday.
I think that successful telecommuting requires just a few key elements:
- Management leadership. Management needs to encourage telecommuting and support employees with trust and training to make it a win-win proposition for their employees and companies alike.
- Training. All employees who want to telecommute need to learn the right and wrong ways to work from home. They need training in best practices for working away from the office.
- The right tools. Telecommuters will need certain tools to maintain their connection with the office and its enterprise-level technologies to keep up their productivity as they work in remote locations.
The good news is that those tools are readily available right now.
Take BroadWorkstm Anywheretm as an example. Even though I travel a great deal, I rarely give out my cell phone number. I generally give everyone my business phone number because BroadWorks Anywhere extends the features of my desk telephone to softphones and mobile phones regardless of manufacturer or network. So no matter where I am, anyone can get in touch with me, and the caller’s contact information is displayed to me on the incoming call.
And think about all of the other IP-based communication services designed to make us all more productive—that’s the essence of unified communications. You just need to be online with a smartphone or computer. You can see who else is on, make or take phone calls, set up and sit in on conference calls, get messages and email, text, tweet and fax. You can even attend video conferences from wherever you happen to be working on a given day. The UC features don’t care if you are sitting at headquarters or in your home office–they just work.
At BroadSoft we’ve partnered with Microsoft to integrate with Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration Version 4.5, which allows users to work from virtually anywhere. We also recently introduced BroadWorkstm Connector for Lotustm Sametimetm –a powerful plug-in that enables enterprises to access BroadSoft’s IP telephony and unified communications capabilities from within IBM’s UC2 platform.
As I said last summer, I believe now is the time for video. A video conference is like being there. There are other important video business applications, as well. We’ve partnered with Polycom to launch a number of joint video solutions. Along the same lines we’ve also collaborated with Tandberg to launch new hosted video business solutions that providers can offer to their customers in an affordable, hassle-free service model.
At BroadSoft we personally experience the tremendous benefits of these communications options on a daily basis. Many of our employees work from remote locations, connecting to headquarters via the latest video phones using the latest Web-collaboration and document-sharing tools. These employees are virtually connected, allowing our global employee base to work as one.
I believe that there’s great opportunity for our service providers in helping companies implement telecommuting programs. The incentives are obvious: Telecommuting saves money, improves productivity and reduces the impact of commuting on the environment.
With all of the benefits available through UC today, maybe traffic on the Beltway won’t be so bad in 2050 after all.
This week we caught up with Vince Margiotta from XO Communications to learn more about their new Enterprise SIP Communications Solution for Multi-Location Businesses. Vince talks about what makes this new offering compelling to large companies in today’s market. He expands on how it streamlines, simplifies and reduces costs to enable businesses to better implement and manage their communications platforms. Please click the link below to listen to the interview.
IMS has emerged as the industry’s leading architecture for next-generation networks. It has been adopted by the cable, wireline and wireless standards bodies as the reference architecture for all communications applications. Such unanimous accord is a first in the history of the industry.
The value of IMS is in providing a single network for any access supporting multiple services. Given the complexity of communications networks, it’s really the only way to successfully launch new applications and ensure low operating costs.
For BroadSoft and our customers, IMS provides defined interfaces that ensure interoperability in multi-vendor networks and across different service providers. We are seeing service providers using IMS for innovative services on new broadband access.
Where We Are and Where We’re Going
Today IMS is focused on basic services that mainly replicate PSTN services. Looking forward, the true value of IMS is enabling a richer set of services—which will include things like IPTV, messaging, presence and gaming—and driving new revenue streams.
We are already seeing service providers using IMS to deliver rich services, and expect this to become the norm, in the very near future. This will look something like this:
- Voice moves to rich media including high-definition voice, video, enhanced messaging, presence and content-sharing.
- Fixed broadband moves to fixed-and-mobile broadband—all access is IP, and the applications are access-independent.
- Basic service moves to a set of advanced, integrated services that offer a seamless user experience.
- All siloed networks move to a single core network for all access types.
IMS is quickly migrating to multimedia and multiservice applications with end users taking advantage of feature-rich, high-value services.
BroadSoft Tackles IMS’s Toughest Challenges
This evolution is putting some IMS design principles to the test. Specifically there are two key challenges: 1) service orchestration and 2) service data management.
Today’s standard service orchestration model is very basic and very limited—well suited for loose integration of some applications but ill suited for more complex blending of services. Most service orchestration issues aren’t apparent until integration—a point where it may be too late to address them.
We’re working closely with service providers and third-party application vendors to simplify service orchestration for common-use cases that we’ve experienced and those we expect to see in the future.
Service-data management also poses some tough challenges in multi-service offerings. If every application requires its own data and exposes a separate provisioning interface, the need to maintain multiple subscriber databases drives up operating costs.
Many service providers are now looking toward centralizing their subscriber provisioning and service data. In this scenario all user-centric application data is hosted on the home subscriber server (HSS).
We have a number of key customers who are designing network architectures in which all user profile and service data is stored in a central repository.
BroadSoft is the leading IMS application server vendor. By focusing on the hard problems and working closely with our customers, we will continue to lead the industry’s evolution.
We have reached another tipping point in the telecommunications industry. SIP trunking is the fastest growing service in our space right now and we all have an opportunity to capitalize on this trend, but we must be smart about our approach.
SIP Trunking’s growth presents a new revenue opportunity, but only if the trunk offers services above and beyond PSTN quality voice. If a service provider simply provides VoIP connectivity, they will see their revenues erode. SIP Trunking offers service providers a tremendous opportunity to deliver valuable services to enterprises by providing new communication services in demand by the enterprise market. Enterprises are becoming more educated on SIP Trunking. Practically every large enterprise has read a case study that demonstrates how an enterprise can reduce their trunks by 30% – 40%, which is obviously a negative revenue proposition for the service provider. So service providers must develop a comprehensive managed service offering to enhance and complement their SIP Trunking service.
There are several market trends, which are driving adoption of SIP Trunking by enterprises. Over the next 5-years:
- Enterprise workforces will become increasingly mobile
- Video calling will be widely adopted
- High-definition voice will be the new standard for voice communications
- PBXs will migrate to unified communications
- Enterprises are demanding comprehensive business continuity capabilities
We can easily talk about how SIP Trunking is enabling new revenue opportunities for service providers of each of these trends, but in this post we will focus specifically on the prospects with Unified Communications.
ABI Research recently issued a report “Vertical Market Opportunities in Unified Communications,” which predicts that the unified communications solutions market will reach nearly $4.2 billion in 2014 – a sharp increase from 2008 when the market reached around $302 million.
We all know that Unified Communications (UC) is the integration of varied communication options, like voice, video, email, instant messaging and conferencing, on a single IP platform. The primary benefit of UC is the ability to speed the rate of communications, keeping everyone more closely connected and improves collaboration among employees.
Another capability of UC is the greater control it provides a user over their communications options. With a single Web-based account, individual users can decide when, where and how they can be reached — and users can define these parameters without the need for IT support. (See last week’s Broadband Ignite post: VoIP’s Success in 2009 and Beyond, which focuses on the user experience…and a smart network).
SIP Trunking enables the delivery of Unified Communication capabilities now, from the “cloud, offering service providers an immediate, new revenue opportunity versus shifting that revenue opportunity to the PBX manufactures. With a “cloud-model”, enterprises no longer need to purchase additional equipment to have a full-featured UC solution.
BroadSoft has tightly integrated our BroadWorks product with business applications from Microsoft, IBM, Google, Zimbra and Counterpath in order to enable service providers to offer “UC as a Service.” When service providers host UC in the cloud, enterprises can purchase UC on an as-needed basis. This approach eliminates the need for businesses to spend valuable CAPEX dollars to purchase on premises-based systems, and creates a new revenue opportunity for service providers.
Another business model for service providers is Aastra’s Clearspan product, which integrates BroadSoft’s BroadWorks platform. Clearspan enables enterprises to collapse PSTN connectivity from multiple sites into a single centralized SIP trunk while allowing for a graceful migration of enterprise users to UC without the immediate need to replace costly PBX phones. Service providers can deliver and manage these platforms for enterprises, regardless of their communications environment, PBX, IP or a hybrid.
And the benefits of UC to an enterprise are no longer just a gut feeling. Aberdeen Group recently conducted a study that quantified the benefits of UC to an enterprise, which are:
- 35% increase in knowledge sharing
- 35% increase in workplace flexibility
- 25% improvement of an organization’s competitive performance
- 16% increased of collaboration for decision making
- 11% accelerated speed of conflict resolution
All of these factors present a perfect storm for service providers to increase revenue opportunities, versus creating a commoditized service. They are well positioned to offer advance communication services today through SIP Trunking.
We are hosting a webinar tomorrow, December 2, 2009: Capitalize on SIP Trunkings’ Momentum where we will expand on the other revenue opportunities available with a comprehensive SIP Trunking solution strategy, including:
o Unified Communications
o Fixed mobile Convergence
o Video and Telepresence
o Teleworker Solutions
o Disaster recovery
o Customized communication applications with BroadSoft Xtended
BroadSoft’s goal is to enable service providers to deliver value with SIP Trunking, not simply enable the replacement of circuit switch calls. We will all lose if that is the strategy for SIP Trunking.