G Business VoIP Newsletter
February 2018
   New in Business Communications

New Releases

A Year in SMB
A significant number of business communications vendors zeroed in on the small and mid-size business (SMB) opportunity in 2017, introducing a new SMB-focused unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering or a new small-scale IP-PBX system during the year. Read more here about new SMB offers that crossed our research radar. (more…)

AI in the Enterprise
Nearly all of the business communications vendors we track are highlighting artificial intelligence (AI)-related solutions, or at least referring to “AI” in their marketing strategies. More here about AI-related solutions and initiatives that are already in the works. (more…)

Consolidation Round-up
The business communications industry is evolving fast in terms of technology, but also in the number of vendors and providers competing in this market. Already in 2018, just a couple of months into the new year, we’ve heard about a significant number of mergers as UC vendors look to round out their portfolios and expand into new markets. More here on nine recently-announced mergers. (more…)

Quick Takes

Amazon, Avaya, Dialpad, Genesys, Microsoft, Mitel, Panasonic, Star2Star, Vonage...

New Releases

A Year in SMB

More options are always a good thing, and in that sense, 2017 was a good year for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) seeking new business communications solutions. Market statistics vary, but all agree that the SMB opportunity is a massive one, a multi-billion-dollar annual market opportunity in the U.S., for example, that is estimated at more than half of the country’s telecom spend. SMBs also drive the UK economy, with about 96% of businesses in the UK employing fewer than 10 people. In the Canadian market, very small businesses with fewer than eight extension users are said to represent some 75% of the businesses there. Adding to that, research firm Gartner forecasts that globally end-user spending on unified communications (UC) will reach approximately $43.5 billion by 2021.

Not surprisingly then, a significant number of business communications vendors zeroed in on the SMB opportunity in 2017, introducing a new SMB-focused unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering or a new small-scale IP-PBX system during the year. As expected, several of the new SMB solutions for call control fall into the cloud-based, as-a-service telephony/UC category, but there were a number of new on-premises phone systems as well. This lines up with a Nemertes study of 800 companies conducted in second quarter 2017. While companies are certainly evaluating cloud-based UC solutions, many are opting to stay with an on-premises system, particularly when cost savings are the greater concern.

It is important to note that vendors introducing on-site IP-PBX hardware typically support a full spectrum of deployments, including cloud, premises and hybrid arrangements that involve a combination of on-site equipment and hosted services. They are covering all bases by helping their customers protect existing telephony equipment investments, while allowing them to take advantage of pay-as-you-go hosted services, if desired, for new locations or for advanced applications – a smart move as not every business is ready for the cloud.

Here is a sampling of new SMB offers that crossed our research radar in 2017 (listed in order of roll-out):

Epygi QX20 and QX500
Epygi released two new IP-PBX models in mid-March 2017, the entry-level Epygi QX20 for very small offices (to 32 users) and the Epygi QX500 for mid-size offices (to 500 users). The new models fill gaps in the earlier line of “QX” business telephony systems which includes the QX50 IP-PBX (to 50 users), the QX200 (to 200 users) and the QX3000 for mid-range and larger enterprises (to 3,000 users). Epygi will be jumping into the cloud market soon with new cloud-based and hybrid solutions, but continues to find demand for its economical, all-in-one premises-based equipment. The low-end QX20 has an MSRP of only $385.

Cisco Business Edition 4000
Cisco expanded its Business Edition family of all-in-one communications platforms in April, introducing the Cisco Business Edition 4000 for SMBs with fewer than 200 devices. Business Edition 4000 is a voice-centric telephony appliance for simple office communications. The system is deployed on-premises, but managed in the cloud via a hosted management portal with intuitive menus designed to simplify system deployment and provisioning. Business Edition 4000 runs on one of Cisco’s newer ISR 4000 series routers and replaces the company’s earlier Business Edition 6000”S” introduced in 2015 for SMBs and branch offices in the 25-150 user range.

Accent VoiceONE Business Edition
Accent Communication Services expanded its VoiceONE business telephony offering in June with a more affordable option for SMBs in North America, the Accent VoiceONE Business Edition. This Asterisk-based solution supports essential telephony features in either a cloud or on-site deployment. VoiceONE Business Edition is a good fit for businesses with 5-150 users that don’t require sophisticated UC or contact center (CC) capabilities, though the solution is not restricted by size and can actually scale to handle as many as 500 users or more. Accent’s Business Edition joins the company’s earlier VoiceONE Cloud and On-Site offerings (based on Zultys call control) which have been rebranded under the umbrella VoiceONE Enterprise as these offer a more sophisticated suite of features for a higher monthly fee.

NEC SL2100 Smart Communications System
Last June, NEC announced the SL2100 Smart Communications System for small businesses in North America (up to 128 extensions). The new on-premises system is designed with built-in features over and above those of NEC’s earlier SL1100. These include mobile extension, audio and video conferencing, document sharing, presence and instant messaging, ACD and contact center and hotel/motel services. The built-in technology reduces the hardware required (and lessens licensing and maintenance), resulting in a cost-effective system that delivers many of the features required by SMBs today.

CenturyLink Business VoIP
In August, CenturyLink unveiled the Business VoIP cloud service for small businesses (1-10 employees) seeking a plug-and-play, pre-configured, as-a-service solution for their business communications. The service, based on BroadSoft technology and managed by CenturyLink, comes in two flat-rate packages: (1) Premium with popular telephony features and voicemail ($20 per user per month) and (2) Premium with Unified Communications that that adds mobile device voice integration, instant messaging and file sharing capabilities ($25 per user per month). Customers can purchase Polycom VVX telephones through CenturyLink or utilize already owned, compatible Polycom devices. Cisco’s Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) can also be paired to incorporate existing analog telephones.

Digium Switchvox E-Series
Digium introduced four new SMB-focused Switchvox UC appliances (the E-Series) in August that promise better performance and affordability versus Digium’s earlier models. The compact E510 for small businesses (up to 150 phones and 50 concurrent calls) starts at $695 (suggested retail pricing); the E520 (300 phones and 100 concurrent calls) starts at $1,595. The higher capacity appliances E530 ($2,995) and E540 ($5,995) each support up to 600 phones and 200 concurrent calls and are powered by Dell EMC hardware; the E540 appliance has a mirrored RAID array of solid state drives and dual power supplies for redundancy requirements.

Panasonic Canada Hosted PBX
Panasonic Canada announced a new cloud-based telephony service offering in August for small and mid-sized businesses and enterprises (SMBs and SMEs) in the Canadian market. The new Panasonic Hosted PBX is a fully cloud-based solution that uses third party softswitch technology in conjunction with Panasonic’s SIP-based desktop and wireless phones. This includes a cost-effective Small Business Bundle (SBB) for very small businesses with fewer than eight extension users and a Small Medium Enterprise Business Plan (SME) for multi-site organizations and/or those that need more scale or that have more sophisticated communications requirements.

8×8 Virtual Office X
In October, 8×8 released three new 8×8 Virtual Office “X” Editions (X2, X5 and X8) that come with popular enterprise telephony and UC functions, but also more advanced capabilities not typically standard in competing UCaaS offers. The X Editions have a price-value advantage (among other advantages) over and above the earlier 8×8 Classic Editions, particularly the new X8 bundle that combines contact center functionality (drawn from the 8×8 ContactNow solution) with unified telephony/collaboration features. Though 8×8 continues to report a rise in the number of mid-market and enterprise customers (now 58% of the company’s total revenue), it is initially marketing the X editions to new SMB customers in the U.S. and UK. Over time, however, all 8×8 customers, including enterprise customers, will migrate to the X Editions.

Dialpad Free
Just this December, Dialpad introduced a free cloud phone service, called Dialpad Free, aimed at very small offices with five or fewer employees. The free service provides one business number and five extensions, along with a good subset of company’s business phone features. This includes some more advanced capabilities such as audio conferencing via Dialpad’s UberConference service (free accounts for all five users), video calling between Dialpad users and LinkedIn and Google G Suite integration. There are a few limitations in terms of outbound minutes per month and inbound/outbound SMS messaging, but overall, this looks to be a very intriguing offer for a small organization or home office, particularly since there are “no strings attached” and no bill (this is not just a free trial). Dialpad Free is initially being offered and tested in the San Francisco Bay Area, and will extend to other cities over time.

Hats off to those vendors and providers – those noted above and many others – stepping up to understand the challenges and requirements that smaller businesses and home offices face. Stay tuned as we continue to highlight new solutions for this key market segment, at times overlooked by analysts and other industry publications, but which are of high interest to a massive sector of the global economy.

 

 

AI in the Enterprise

High on our research radar for 2018 will be new business communications solutions around artificial intelligence (AI). Nearly all of the business communications vendors we track are highlighting AI-related solutions, or at least referring to “AI” in their marketing strategies.

Research firm Gartner shows how quickly the term “artificial intelligence” has advanced on the company’s “Hype Cycle” (see a helpful definition of the technology here). “AI” did not even appear in the top 100 search terms on the company’s website in January 2016, but by May 2017, the term had moved into the top 10. Gartner aptly point outs, however, that while most businesses are forging ahead with building and marketing an AI-based solution, many are doing so without thoroughly identifying actual needs and real business value. Nevertheless, Gartner predicts that by 2020, AI will be among the top five investment priorities for 30% of CIOs.

We can be sure that all business communications vendors will be addressing AI and related machine-learning technologies in 2018 to help their customers take advantage of the digital transformation and new opportunities to improve the customer experience – as well as to handle the larger and larger amounts of data (the result of Internet-connected devices or IoT) that are impossible for humans to manage.

Below is a sampling of AI-related solutions and initiatives that are already in the works from the business communications vendors we track.

  • Avaya unveiled the A.I.Connect initiative and partner ecosystem that will focus on building and integrating artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into Avaya Oceana (Avaya’s contact center portfolio) and Avaya Breeze (the Avaya Aura application development environment).
  • BroadSoft added AI capabilities to its UC-One Connect mobile application for retrieving and displaying relevant information from files, emails and social media to the mobile device user based on who the user is talking to or messaging.
  • Cisco introduced the Cisco Spark Assistant voice assistant for help with starting, joining and leaving meetings (based on MindMeld’s machine-learning technology acquired by Cisco in May 2017). Spark Assistant will roll-out in phases, adding more and more cognitive capabilities like leveraging and learning from a user’s calendar, company directory and Cisco Spark activity.
  • Genesys released the next evolution of its omni-channel Customer Experience Platform, dubbed G-NINE. Among the new capabilities is an AI solution for customer service called “Kate” developed around the company’s concept of “blended AI” which combines live agent interactions with AI, bots and machine learning.
  • Microsoft announced new developer tools for Microsoft Teams to help build chat bots, apps and custom integrations that will differentiate Microsoft Teams from the myriad of other messaging platforms. Microsoft also continues to roll out AI capabilities for its Bing web search tool, Cortana digital assistant and Office 365 services.
  • Mitel is partnering to develop solutions that combine Mitel UC platforms within an Internet of Things (IoT) environment. Currently, Mitel’s Mass Notification system is being utilized at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to send voice and SMS alerts to the airport’s emergency medical response team when unauthorized access to automated external defibrillator (AED) cabinets is detected via sensors.
  • NEC Corporation of America is working with GE Digital and Microsoft to create new solutions around AI, IoT and digital transformation. Initial solutions include AI for Visual Inspection (uses NEC’s image analytics to find and identify defects during a manufacturing process) and AI for Parts Traceability (uses NEC’s Fingerprint of Things AI pattern recognition).
  • RingCentral is developing artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot integrations for its Glip team collaboration application, including a new Salesforce Alert Bot that captures Salesforce events and sends notifications to Glip teams.

If this past year is any indication, we are in for another whirlwind year of surprises and major changes in the fast-evolving business communications space. Read more here on other trends we’re watching in 2018, including the evolution and adoption of team collaboration apps, subscription-based pricing for on-premises telephony equipment, and the surety of more vendor consolidation. Stay tuned.

 

 

Consolidation Round-up

The business communications industry is evolving fast in terms of technology, but also in the number of vendors and providers competing in this market.

There were several major shake-ups that impacted the unified communications (UC) space in 2017. Mitel purchased the Toshiba Telecom assets and acquired ShoreTel (ShoreTel’s Connect CLOUD and Connect ONSITE are now part of Mitel’s flagship portfolio). Cisco announced the acquisition of cloud unified communications wholesaler BroadSoft (this merger is now complete; more to come on what this means to the portfolios, partners and customers going forward). Other significant consolidations in 2017 included NetFortris–Fonality, West–Vocus Group, 3CX–Askozia, Sonus–Genband, VMware–VeloCloud, and Windstream–Broadview Networks.

Speculation about the fate of Avaya was ongoing throughout 2017 after its voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Avaya has successfully emerged now as a public company with new leadership and is rapidly rolling out new initiatives and solutions. Avaya also announced the acquisition of cloud contact center service provider, Spoken Communications (more on this below).

Consolidations continue. Already in 2018, just a couple of months into the new year, we’ve heard about a significant number of mergers as UC vendors look to round out their portfolios and expand into new markets. See below for highlights of several recently-announced mergers, listed alphabetically by the acquiring company.

Avaya-Spoken
Avaya is acquiring Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) provider (and partner) Spoken Communications, adding a multi-tenant, fully cloud-based contact center offering to Avaya’s portfolio. The two companies partnered previously in a 2014 cross-selling agreement to offer a hybrid cloud CCaaS solution for enterprise contact centers, and in 2017, to integrate Avaya customer engagement technologies into Spoken’s ConversationCenter as a pure cloud offering. With the two companies as one, development efforts will accelerate, and new CCaaS offerings will emerge to facilitate Avaya customer migration to the cloud – a key goal for Avaya going forward. The deal also brings with it Spoken’s forward-looking IntelligentWire artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies. The transaction is expected to close in March 2018.

CoreDial-Voice4Net
CoreDial expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) provider Voice4Net, adding a suite of cloud-based contact center and customer engagement solutions to CoreDial’s telephony and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offerings. CoreDial has an all-channel business model and offers its cloud services to Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Interconnects and Carriers in the United States, through a private label program. Over the past year, CoreDial has rolled out a number of enhancements in response to channel partner feedback, including unique support for two call control platforms (Asterisk and BroadSoft BroadWorks) and bi-modal applications that work across both; more on that here. Now, partners can offer an integrated UCaaS and CCaaS solution, as well as standalone contact center services that are compatible with leading voice and UC platforms. The Voice4Net solutions, now rebranded CoreDial’s CoreNexa Contact Center, include omni-channel customer service (voice, SMS, email and live chat) with intelligent call routing and inbound/outbound communications, custom IVR (Interactive Voice Response), CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other related solutions. The transaction is complete; channel partners can begin selling the CoreNexa Contact Center suite as of March 2018.

Genesys-Altocloud
Genesys just announced the acquisition of cloud-based customer journey analytics provider, Altocloud, to strengthen its portfolio with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. The Altocloud contextual communications platform uses data analytics, machine learning and reporting to analyze and understand customer behavior patterns, making it possible to see what visitors are viewing as they click through a website, for example. Altocloud’s Identity Graph provides a 360 degree or a “holistic” view of the customer journey that consolidates and presents data collected various devices and platforms that a customer may use. Genesys will be integrating Altocloud with its PureEngage platform first (Genesys Enterprise Edition offerings), followed by its PureCloud multi-tenant suite that runs on Amazon Web Services and PureConnect, the company’s all-in-one software suite (CIC and CaaS); more on the Genesys portfolio here. Per Genesys, the Altocloud solutions will complement its own initiatives around “blended AI” that combines live agent interactions with AI, bots and machine learning. The transaction is complete; Genesys expects to start offering Altocloud capabilities to customers in the second half of 2018.

LogMeIn-Jive Communications
LogMeIn announced its intent to acquire Jive Communications, adding Jive’s cloud-based voice, video, contact center and mobile applications to its portfolio of collaboration products that includes GoToMeeting and join.me. The combination gives LogMeIn a more comprehensive suite of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) services. Over the past few years, Jive made some of its own acquisitions to expand into new markets, including purchasing Canadian Business VoIP provider FonAngle and audio/web conference service vendor Speek. Jive Video Professional, a multi-point video conferencing service with content sharing, launched in 2016. A new cloud-based call center offer that integrates with the Jive’s Voice Hosted PBX service debuted in 2017 (Jive Contact Center Pro powered by inContact is available for more sophisticated contact center requirements). The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

Ooma-Voxter, Butterfleye
Ooma extends its portfolio and global reach with the acquisition of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provider Voxter Communications. Voxter, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, provides telephone numbers in over 130 countries and operates data centers in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia. Voxter services, including voice, video and messaging solutions for mid-market and enterprise businesses, complement the Ooma Office telephony platform for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). The acquisition also brings additional functionality from Voxter around mobile apps, collaboration, contact center and application integration, as well as three channel partner programs with retail, wholesale/white-label and referral-based models. The Ooma-Voxter transaction is expected to close in March 2018. Also recently, Ooma purchased Butterfleye, Inc. and its Wi-Fi video camera platform for homes and small offices. The Butterfleye technology incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) for facial and audio recognition and Butterfleye’s patent-pending activity-based recording. Ooma is integrating the Butterfleye wire-free, rechargeable HD camera with its own security solutions, but will also continue to sell the cameras standalone under the Butterfleye brand. The Ooma-Butterfleye transaction is complete.

Polycom-Obihai
Polycom adds new technology and software with the acquisition of Obihai Technology, a California-based developer of software and hardware for Voice over IP (VoIP) enabled devices. Obihai’s OBi Series IP phones, VoIP Telephone Adapters and accessories are sold by Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSPs) to residential and business subscribers. The merger will not only broaden Polycom’s audio and video endpoint portfolio, but will expand its range of customers, partners and market reach. Polycom highlights the “magic” of Obihai’s technology stack that enables flexible integrations and customizations through the OBiTALK service API (Application Programming Interface). In 2017, Polycom was among the first to offer a Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) program that makes some of its desktop business phones and conferencing devices available as a monthly subscription; we’ll know more about any plans for incorporating the Obihai phones into this program as 2018 unfolds. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018.

Sangoma-Dialogic CCD
Sangoma Technologies Corporation continues to tap into new markets with the recent acquisition of the Converged Communication Division from Dialogic Corporation, adding a full line of VoIP and media gateways, telephony cards, modems and media boards to the Sangoma portfolio. The Dialogic CCD products are complementary to the Sangoma line-up and will open new channel opportunities to sell the combined set of products. Sangoma, perhaps best known for its VoIP gateways, session border controllers, telecom interface cards and Microsoft Skype for Business related products, has broadened its customer reach in recent years with other acquired technologies, namely fax-over-IP (from RockBochs) and open source telephony and unified communications (from Schmooze Com). Sangoma entered the cloud UC space in 2016; more on that here. The Sangoma-Dialogic CCD transaction is complete.

Star2Star-Blueface
Star2Star Communications and European UCaaS provider Blueface have merged, following a partner relationship over the past two years. The combined companies have formed a new corporate entity called “StarBlue,” but for now, each will continue to operate in their respective markets under their current names, Star2Star in the United States and Blueface in EMEA. In a cross-selling arrangement, each will offer products and services from the other. This includes Star2Star’s hybrid cloud solution that combines an on-premises phone system and Internet router with cloud-based UC services (branded “StarSystem Hybrid”) and the Blueface multi-tenant, fully hosted cloud telephony/UC service (branded “StarSystem Hosted”). Star2Star also offers Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), a networking technique that helps to ensure the Quality of Service (QoS) of cloud-based applications running over public Internet connections. The transaction is complete.

Stay tuned as news of additional mergers is likely soon, particularly in light of the Enterprise Connect Conference and Expo taking place March 12-15 in Orlando, Florida. There will be a flurry of announcements coming out of the event. 2018 is certain to be another year of major change in the fast-evolving business communications industry.

 

Quick Takes

In recent news:

Amazon introduced the new Amazon Web Services (AWS), Alexa for Business, a voice-activated digital assistant that automates office tasks such as starting conference calls, controlling conference room equipment, scheduling or cancelling meetings, or ordering supplies, to name a few. These “skills” are developed using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples that add skills to Alexa for voice-enabling the workplace. There are tens of thousands of public skills already created, including from third party application providers such as Salesforce, Concur, SuccessFactors, ServiceNow, Splunk, Acumatica, Tact, Polycom, Crestron, RingCentral, Teem, Twine, and Zoom (i.e."Alexa, ask RingCentral to read me my voicemail" or "Alexa, ask Salesforce for the current status of my team's big deals scheduled to close this quarter"). On the artificial intelligence (AI) front, Amazon has introduced some new cloud-based AI tools, namely Amazon Rekognition Video that recognizes and tracks people in real-time video feeds, Amazon Transcribe (now available as a preview in English and Spanish initially) for transcribing audio recordings, Amazon Comprehend for determining positive or negative sentiment, people, places and phrases in text and Amazon Translate for language translation.  In other news, AWS certified Pindrop’s fraud detection and authentication capabilities for use with Amazon’s Connect call center solution.

Avaya announced the acquisition of Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) provider (and partner) Spoken Communications, adding a multi-tenant, fully cloud-based contact center offering to Avaya’s portfolio. The two companies partnered previously in a 2014 cross-selling agreement to offer a hybrid cloud CCaaS solution for enterprise contact centers, and in 2017, to integrate Avaya customer engagement technologies into Spoken’s ConversationCenter as a pure cloud offering. With the two companies as one, development efforts will accelerate, and new CCaaS offerings will emerge to facilitate Avaya customer migration to the cloud – a key goal for Avaya going forward. The deal also brings with it Spoken’s forward-looking IntelligentWire artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies. The transaction closed in March 2018.

Avaya has updated its Equinox UC application to be compatible with the company’s IP Office business communications solution (expected in second quarter of 2018). Avaya also adds a “zero download” option (WebRTC) for Equinox Meetings Online, as well as a new Equinox Attendant PC-based software application and several new user devices, the J139, J169 and J179 desktop phones and the CU-360 Collaboration Device for video collaboration. In other news, the Avaya “Ava” bot, previously used internally for online support (answering inquiries from partners and customers), is now offered as a cloud-based AI solution for contact centers, automating and managing digital interactions with customers through social and messaging platforms through natural language processing, machine learning, sentiment analysis and analytics. The Ava technology supports 34 languages and integrates with Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and LINE, initially. Avaya has also expanded its A.I.Connect initiative with three new partners, Salesforce, eGain and Sabio, that will offer or integrate third party artificial intelligence (AI) solutions into Avaya Oceana (Avaya’s contact center portfolio) and Avaya Breeze (the Avaya Aura application development environment).

Cisco announced the completion of its acquisition of BroadSoft on February 2, 2018. “Former BroadSoft CEO Michael Tessler and his organization are joining Cisco's Unified Communications Technology Group led by Vice President and General Manager Tom Puorro, under the Applications Group led by Rowan Trollope.” Cisco and BroadSoft first announced the agreement to merge on October 23, 2017 in a significant industry event that would combine two major market leaders in the UCaaS space. The two companies have stressed the complementary nature of their respective portfolios that will result in a “full stack” of UC solutions across all market segments. With the acquisition completed, the combined company is in the process of defining a product roadmap and expects to share strategy details throughout 2018, including at the upcoming Cisco Collaboration Summit in April and the BroadSoft Connections user conference in November.

Comcast Business announces VoiceEdge Select, a cloud-based, phone service that targets small, single-site businesses with 3-8 employees. The service enables popular calling features, along with some features for workers on-the-go such as the company’s Be Anywhere service to make/receive calls from any device, including a mobile phone (can define multiple network locations) and Readable Voicemail that converts voice messages into text. VoiceEdge Select is $34.95 per seat monthly plus a choice of one phone per seat, either a Panasonic KX-TPA65 Wireless desk phone or a Panasonic KX-TPA60 Wireless handset ($4.95 per month per phone). For more businesses with more than eight users or with multiple locations, Comcast offers the more fully-featured Business VoiceEdge hosted telephony and unified communications (UC) service.

CoreDial expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) provider Voice4Net, adding a suite of cloud-based contact center and customer engagement solutions to CoreDial’s telephony and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offerings. CoreDial has an all-channel business model and offers its cloud services to Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Interconnects and Carriers in the United States, through a private label program. Over the past year, CoreDial has rolled out a number of enhancements in response to channel partner feedback, including unique support for two call control platforms (Asterisk and Cisco BroadSoft BroadWorks) and bi-modal applications that work across both; more on that here. Now, partners can offer an integrated UCaaS and CCaaS solution, as well as standalone contact center services that are compatible with leading voice and UC platforms. The Voice4Net solutions, now rebranded CoreDial’s CoreNexa Contact Center, include omni-channel customer service (voice, SMS, email and live chat) with intelligent call routing and inbound/outbound communications, custom IVR (Interactive Voice Response), CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other related solutions. The transaction is complete; channel partners can begin selling the CoreNexa Contact Center suite as of March 2018.

Dialpad introduced a free cloud phone service, called Dialpad Free, aimed at very small offices with five or fewer employees. The free service provides one business number and five extensions, along with a good subset of company’s business phone features. This includes some more advanced capabilities such as audio conferencing via Dialpad's UberConference service (free accounts for all five users), video calling between Dialpad users and LinkedIn and Google G Suite integration. There are a few limitations in terms of outbound minutes per month and inbound/outbound SMS messaging, but overall, this looks to be a very intriguing offer for a small organization or home office, particularly since there are “no strings attached” and no bill (this is not just a free trial). Dialpad Free was initially being offered and tested in the San Francisco Bay Area but has since rolled out across the United States. In other news, Dialpad added a Zendesk integration that combines Dialpad’s business communications platform (Dialpad Pro) with Zendesk’s customer service tools for enterprise users (available in the Zendesk App Marketplace).

Digium entered a new market segment with new low-cost A-Series IP desk phones designed specifically for systems based on the Asterisk open source PBX software. The four entry-level, mid and executive models (A20, A22, A25, A30) support two, four or six lines and color displays, and start as low as US$59. The new phones complement Digium’s earlier, more advanced D-Series IP phones, including the D80 color touch-screen phone, which are available for both Asterisk and Switchvox platforms (A-Series phones are not available for Digium’s Switchvox IP-PBX for small and mid-sized businesses). Digium also introduced the G080 8-port analog gateway (built on Asterisk) for Digium’s Switchvox to connect analog telephones and telephone lines. G080 utilizes the same graphical user interface (GUI) as Switchvox; the suggested retail price is US$895.

Fuze expanded its global partner program to include the option for select partners to resell its unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solution. The new program rewards partners that collaborate with Fuze and help to extend the company’s reach into key territories, including North America, the UK and Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. In other news, Fuze was awarded a new patent related to its advanced method of streamlining the management of contact information on clients’ devices.

Genesys announced the acquisition of cloud-based customer journey analytics provider, Altocloud, to strengthen its portfolio with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. The Altocloud contextual communications platform uses data analytics, machine learning and reporting to analyze and understand customer behavior patterns, making it possible to see what visitors are viewing as they click through a website, for example. Altocloud’s Identity Graph provides a 360 degree or a “holistic” view of the customer journey that consolidates and presents data collected various devices and platforms that a customer may use. Genesys will be integrating Altocloud with its PureEngage platform first (Genesys Enterprise Edition offerings), followed by its PureCloud multi-tenant suite that runs on Amazon Web Services and PureConnect, the company’s all-in-one software suite (CIC and CaaS); more on the Genesys portfolio here. Per Genesys, the Altocloud solutions will complement its own initiatives around “blended AI” that combines live agent interactions with AI, bots and machine learning. The transaction is complete; Genesys expects to start offering Altocloud capabilities to customers in the second half of 2018. In other news, Genesys is now offering a subscription payment option (OPEX) for its premises-based PureConnect and PureEngage solutions, along with new PureSuccess service offerings for dedicated experts, instructor-led training and consultations or self-service tools.

Google has officially launched its 'Hangouts Chat' messaging platform for teams, following early adopter trials last year. Hangouts Chat is available at no additional cost for companies already subscribing to Google’s G Suite Basic ($5/user/month), Business ($10/user/month) or Enterprise plans. Hangouts Chat integrates tightly with Google’s other offerings, including uploading items from Google Drive and collaborating in Docs, Sheets, and Slides, as well as integration with Hangouts Meet for video and Google search for finding conversations and files. At launch, there are 25 bots pre-installed, and third-party developers can create their own custom bots. Hangouts Chat supports 28 languages, and each room can include up to 8,000 members.

LogMeIn announced its intent to acquire Jive Communications, adding Jive’s cloud-based voice, video, contact center and mobile applications to its portfolio of collaboration products that includes GoToMeeting and join.me. The combination gives LogMeIn a more comprehensive suite of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) services. Over the past few years, Jive made some of its own acquisitions to expand into new markets, including purchasing Canadian Business VoIP provider FonAngle and audio/web conference service vendor Speek. Jive Video Professional, a multi-point video conferencing service with content sharing, launched in 2016. A new cloud-based call center offer that integrates with the Jive’s Voice Hosted PBX service debuted in 2017 (Jive Contact Center Pro powered by inContact is available for more sophisticated contact center requirements). Recently, Jive Communications also announced Jive SD-WAN powered by VeloCloud aimed at mid-market enterprises as alternative to traditional MPLS WAN architectures. The LogMeIn-Jive Communications transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

Mavenir entered a new market with a Mobile-Native Unified Communications and Collaboration as a Service (mUCaaS) solution for small/home offices (SOHOs) and small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). The new carrier-grade solution, delivered as a service from the Mavenir cloud, leverages Mavenir's expertise in mobile networks with Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and creates a recurring-revenue opportunity for mobile network operators (MNOs). Notable features include a consumer-like experience built primarily on the smartphone (bring your own device or BYOD), but with desk phones as a secondary device, as well as seamless handover between WiFi and the carrier’s LTE network, mobile messaging, HD audio and video, and more. Mitel had purchased Mavenir in 2015 as a new market opportunity (4G LTE), but in 2017, sold the Mitel Mobility division to digital communications services provider Xura Inc. which then renamed its company as Mavenir Systems, Inc.

Microsoft continues to roll out support for Skype for Business calling capabilities to its Microsoft Teams service. This includes dialing capabilities, call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialing, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail and text telephone (TTY) support. Microsoft Teams also integrates more apps and services from Office 365 (such as Excel) and from partners (such as Trello, InVision, and SurveyMonkey); users can search for apps by name, category or type (bots, tabs, connectors) in a newly created Teams app store. Microsoft Teams also now allows full guest access (previously, this was restricted to only those with an email address corresponding to an Azure Active Directory or Office 365). There is speculation that Microsoft may opt to release a free version of Teams (currently, Teams requires a paid subscription to an Office 365 Business or Enterprise plan).   In related news, Microsoft acquired classroom collaboration startup Chalkup and will bring some of the Chalkup features into the Microsoft Teams for Education product.

Mitel rebranded and streamlined its portfolio of cloud and on-site solutions for the North American market, following the company’s acquisition of ShoreTel in September 2017. Mitel’s going-forward flagship UC portfolio consists of five call control platforms, including two cloud-based services and three on-premises systems. Cloud offerings include: MiCloud Connect (formerly ShoreTel Connect CLOUD) and MiCloud Flex (formerly MiCloud Enterprise). On-premises offerings include: MiVoice Connect (formerly ShoreTel Connect ONSITE), MiVoice Business and MiVoice Office 250. In other news, Mitel announced that several of its hosted cloud platforms have been certified as meeting Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards; HIPAA-compliant solutions include MiCloud Office, MiCloud Business, MiCloud Enterprise and Clearspan.

Ooma extends its portfolio and global reach with the acquisition of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provider Voxter Communications. Voxter, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, provides telephone numbers in over 130 countries and operates data centers in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia. Voxter services, including voice, video and messaging solutions for mid-market and enterprise businesses, complement the Ooma Office telephony platform for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). The acquisition also brings additional functionality from Voxter around mobile apps, collaboration, contact center and application integration, as well as three channel partner programs with retail, wholesale/white-label and referral-based models. The Ooma-Voxter transaction is expected to close in March 2018. Also, recently, Ooma purchased Butterfleye, Inc. and its Wi-Fi video camera platform for homes and small offices. The Butterfleye technology incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) for facial and audio recognition and Butterfleye’s patent-pending activity-based recording. Ooma is integrating the Butterfleye wire-free, rechargeable HD camera with its own security solutions, but will also continue to sell the cameras standalone under the Butterfleye brand. The Ooma-Butterfleye transaction is complete.

Panasonic System Communications Company of North America, Division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, has partnered with CyTrack to offer a new suite of contact center solutions that includes the CyCC omni-channel solution with support for voice, SMS, email, fax, web chat, web callback, queue callback and social media connections. The contact center suite is compatible with Panasonic’s KX- TDE, NCP, NS and NSX business communication servers. Panasonic is also partnering with MTS for a new series of hospitality solutions that combine Panasonic KX-NS Communications Systems, Panasonic DECT Wireless Handsets, Panasonic Media Relay Gateway and a property management system interface powered by MTS that syncs the KX-NS with industry leading Property Management Software. On the corporate side, Panasonic is establishing a new company effective April 1, 2018, called  Panasonic System Solutions North America Company, which will become a Division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, Panasonic's Newark, New Jersey-based subsidiary; the new company consolidates four existing divisions of Panasonic Corporation of North America.

Polycom adds new technology and software with the acquisition of Obihai Technology, a California-based developer of software and hardware for Voice over IP (VoIP) enabled devices. Obihai’s OBi Series IP phones, VoIP Telephone Adapters and accessories are sold by Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSPs) to residential and business subscribers. The merger will not only broaden Polycom’s audio and video endpoint portfolio, but will expand its range of customers, partners and market reach. Polycom highlights the “magic” of Obihai’s technology stack that enables flexible integrations and customizations through the OBiTALK service API (Application Programming Interface). In 2017, Polycom was among the first to offer a Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) program that makes some of its desktop business phones and conferencing devices available as a monthly subscription; we’ll know more about any plans for incorporating the Obihai phones into this program as 2018 unfolds. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018.  In other news, Polycom increases options for customers, announcing the certification of Polycom video conferencing room systems (RealPresence Group Series 310, 500 and 700 and RealPresence Debut) with cloud-based video from BlueJeans.

RingCentral is collaborating with AWS to introduce new Amazon Alexa integrations, including RingCentral Meetings for Alexa for Business for starting and managing online meetings or conference calls using voice commands. In other news, Intelligence Partner, a consulting provider of cloud computing solutions, will offer exclusively the RingCentral cloud communications solutions to businesses across Spain. Intelligence Partner is a Google Premier Partner and highlights the product integrations between RingCentral and Google solutions among the reasons it selected RingCentral. Also, RingCentral has acquired all the RingCentral Office@Hand by AT&T accounts as of January 2018 and will be transitioning these customers to RingCentral Office over the next 12 months (AT&T was a reseller of RingCentral for the last several years, but more recently decided to resell the Broadsoft solution).

Sangoma Technologies Corporation continues to tap into new markets with the recent acquisition of the Converged Communication Division from Dialogic Corporation, adding a full line of VoIP and media gateways, telephony cards, modems and media boards to the Sangoma portfolio. The Dialogic CCD products are complementary to the Sangoma line-up and will open new channel opportunities to sell the combined set of products. Sangoma, perhaps best known for its VoIP gateways, session border controllers, telecom interface cards and Microsoft Skype for Business related products, has broadened its customer reach in recent years with other acquired technologies, namely fax-over-IP (from RockBochs) and open source telephony and unified communications (from Schmooze Com). Sangoma entered the cloud UC space in 2016; more on that here. The Sangoma-Dialogic CCD transaction is complete.

Star2Star Communications and European UCaaS provider Blueface have merged, following a partner relationship over the past two years. The combined companies have formed a new corporate entity called “StarBlue,” but for now, each will continue to operate in their respective markets under their current names, Star2Star in the United States and Blueface in EMEA. In a cross-selling arrangement, each will offer products and services from the other. This includes Star2Star’s hybrid cloud solution that combines an on-premises phone system and Internet router with cloud-based UC services (branded “StarSystem Hybrid”) and the Blueface multi-tenant, fully hosted cloud telephony/UC service (branded “StarSystem Hosted”). Star2Star also offers Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), a networking technique that helps to ensure the Quality of Service (QoS) of cloud-based applications running over public Internet connections. The transaction is complete.

Verizon is evolving One Talk with new functionality for mid-market and multi-location organizations. This includes a workspace collaboration capability based on BroadSoft Team-One (group chat, live meetings with persistent storage and task management), as well as multi-site business support (admin features such as call queuing and extension dialing among locations), and improved on-site installation and setup, customizable policy management. In other news, Verizon will offer Ribbon SBC as-a-service (SBCaaS) through Verizon’s Virtual Network Services (VNS). This combines SBC functionality with a cloud-based consumption model, eliminating the need to purchase and deploy dedicated network hardware for this function. (Ribbon Communications is the corporate name selected by the merger of Sonus and Genband in 2017).

Vonage Business introduces the new Vonage Business Cloud (VBC) to replace its earlier Essentials UCaaS offering for smaller businesses (Essentials was the former Vocalocity service acquired by Vonage in 2013). The cloud-native VBC, designed to run on Amazon Web Services (AWS), is the result of a three-year software development effort and offers a broader UCaaS feature set that targets mid-size and larger companies (up to 1,000 seats). Among the enterprise-level features are integrated mobile text messaging created using resources from the Nexmo CPaaS platform, a Vonage software-defined WAN service (SD-WAN) and the Amazon Chime team collaboration capability. In the near-term, Vonage plans to enhance the scale of the VBC offering and extend the international coverage. The majority of Essentials customers have already been migrated over to VBC, according to Vonage, since Essentials will be discontinued soon.  In other news, Vonage continues to expand coverage internationally, opening its first location in Tokyo, Japan. Vonage also has APAC offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul and Shenzhen, with plans to open two additional offices in mainland China by the end of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For questions or additional information, please contact us at info@gbusinessvoip.com .

 

 
Resources
    Copyright © 2018 G Business VoIP. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without expressed written permission is strictly forbidden.
www.gbusinessvoip.com and www.gsystemscorp.com