G Business VoIP Newsletter
January-February 2019
   New in Business Communications

Contact Center continues to be front and center in the business communications market. Vendors on our radar are responding to trends around Cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS), adding new capabilities, new services, partnering and even purchasing technology as needed.

See below for the latest developments in the contact center area from 8x8, Aspect Software, Avaya, Cisco, Nextiva, RingCentral and Talkdesk, as well as what's new from over a dozen other business communications vendors. A busy start to the New Year!

 

January-February 2019 Quick Takes

8x8 introduced several new contact center-related capabilities for its 8x8 X Series cloud platform. This includes new integrations (Microsoft Dynamics 365, Bullhorn and Slack), advanced speech analytics (searches customer interactions to identify problems or opportunities, evaluate agent performance and ensure compliance) and real-time, customizable dashboards for contact center managers that provide visibility on various contact center metrics. 8x8 is publicly marketing (recommending) four cloud-based X Series plans to match the needs of Small Business (X2, X3, X5, X6) and four plans for Enterprise (X2, X4, X6, X8). There are eight X Series plans in all (X1-X8) to match a variety of user roles. 8x8 is also working to integrate the acquired Jitsi stack into 8x8 X Series offering, specifically introducing video conferencing to the 8x8 Meetings online audio/video conferencing solution. New Meetings desktop and mobile clients are currently being piloted, with general availability expected mid-2019 (8x8 acquired Atlassian’s Jitsi open source video communications technology in October 2018). In other news, Vertical Communications has joined 8x8’s channel partner program and will be offering the 8×8 X Series through its national direct sales and support offices. 

Accent Communications Services significantly expanded its VoiceONE cloud footprint to include eight new geographic markets in the United States. The company now has 10 national datacenters (up from two) for more complete coverage across the US. Datacenters are located in Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Jersey, San Francisco and Seattle. The Ohio-based national provider of telecommunications services and solutions also recently launched the Asterisk-based VoiceONE Connect cloud-based telephony and unified communications (UC) service for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) in North America. Accent’s internally-developed, Zultys-based VoiceONE Enterprise is for more sophisticated telephony, UC and contact center needs.

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is now offering Rainbow Voice, a multi-tenant cloud-based business phone service and part of the company’s overall Rainbow offering. Two subscription plans are available for telephony and unified communications as a service (UCaaS): Rainbow Office (typically for meeting room, public spaces, occasional use phones) and the more fully featured Rainbow Enterprise (a multi-device, multi-party multimedia experience). The offering also includes access to ALE’s Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) environment with open APIs for development of custom business applications (for example, enhancing a mobile banking application with chat capabilities). The Rainbow developer hub includes hundreds of APIs, SDKs and developer resources for customizing integrations, as well as pre-built Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered bots.  Rainbow Voice will appeal to small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) looking for an affordable business phone service that is simple to order, install and manage without the need for outside assistance or in-house IT personnel. Rainbow Voice UCaaS is currently available in the UK and Singapore, with planned expansion to mainland Europe beginning in Q2 2019 and coverage in the U.S. expected by the end of 2019. ALE also offers private, partner-hosted telephony and UC, namely the OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud and OpenTouch Office Cloud solutions.

Aspect Software is to be acquired by private equity firm, Vector Capital. Per the terms of the agreement, Vector Capital will invest $100 million of equity capital in Aspect’s business, which is expected to help Aspect execute on its growth plans and go-forward strategy and solution, including Aspect Via, the company’s cloud customer engagement center (CEC) designed for larger enterprise contact centers. Aspect Via’s native IVR and self-service, contact center interaction management, workforce optimization capabilities, as well as omni-channel customer journey reporting and analytics, are deployed in the Amazon (AWS) cloud. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.

Avaya made a series of major announcements in January 2019, including introducing a new private cloud delivery model (multi-instance, single tenant software) of its Avaya OneCloud solutions for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS). Preconfigured, per-seat consumption and standard bundles are available, with Avaya experts to help design, customize and manage the applications. Data centers are located in the United States, Germany and Singapore, enabling coverage in 34 countries, with additional expansion expected in the coming months.  This new private cloud delivery model adds to public and hybrid cloud options also available under the Avaya OneCloud umbrella. In conjunction with OneCloud, Avaya has launched the ReadyNow offering to speed up migration of UC and contact center resources to the cloud. ReadyNow supports UC deployments initially (contact center options will be added later in 2019). Avaya also enhanced its Edge Channel Partner Program to stimulate cloud sales with simplified and streamlined program requirements, increased benefits and rebates and equal growth opportunities for any size partner.

Avaya has rebranded its solutions portfolio as Avaya Intelligent Xperiences (Avaya IX). This includes Avaya IX Digital Workplace (Calling, Meetings, Collaboration, Devices), Avaya IX Digital Contact Center (Voice, Omnichannel, Desktop, Workforce Engagement) and Avaya IX Mobility (Call deflection to digital, Identity Management). In related news, Avaya and Verint expanded their 15-year partnership to introduce the new, cloud-based Avaya IX Workforce Engagement solution.  Avaya also introduced the Avaya IX Attendant solution for healthcare, a new visual, web-based communications solution for hospital staff. A new portfolio of L100 series professional grade headsets from Avaya initially includes five corded headsets which are designed for contact center agents in particular who need a quick disconnect option and supervisor listen-in capabilities (cordless headsets are expected in the near future). The Avaya A.I.Connect ecosystem added two new partners: Knowmail that provides a secure, personalized AI email productivity capability for Avaya’s UC clients, and over.ai that brings an AI-enabled voice platform that uses natural language processing technology. A new Avaya Virtual Assistant for Slack integration uses Slack commands like call-icons and slash commands to create Avaya meetings and conference calls within the Slack channel.

Cisco announced Release 12.0 for its portfolio of on-premises and hosted contact center solutions, with improvements around the agent/supervisor experience, team collaboration, scalability, deployment options and security. Specifically, Cisco made updates to the following products: Unified Contact Center Enterprise (Unified CCE), Packaged Contact Center Enterprise (Packaged CCE), Unified Contact Center Express (Unified CCX) and Hosted Collaboration Solution for Contact Center (HSC-CC). Notable features include a new Unified CCX browser-based desktop client that supports multiple interaction channels (including Facebook Messenger chat), increased scale for Unified CCE and HCS-CC (to 24,000 agents) and for Packaged CCE (12,000 agents) and support for VMware Cloud on Amazon Web Services for Unified CCE, Packaged CCE and Unified CCX, among other updates. Note that Cisco refers to its overall contact center business unit as “Customer Journey Solutions,” not to be confused with the newly-named Customer Journey Platform (CJP) based on BroadSoft technology which is also one of the solutions under  this portfolio umbrella. In other news, Cisco continues to make acquisitions, recently completing the purchase of silicon photonics company Luxtera and announcing its intent to acquire Singularity Networks (real-time infrastructure and traffic analytics across cloud and premises-based environments).

Fanvil, a VoIP desktop phone developer and manufacturer from China, introduced the new X210 20-line enterprise SIP phone, with three color displays: a 4.3-inch main color display and two 3.5-inch color displays that eliminate the need for an external extension module. The side displays allow the setup of 96 keys, which adds to the 10 keys on the main display for a total of 106 keys to be used for direct station selection, busy lamp field, speed dial, group broadcasting and other telephone functions. Notable features also include options to set-up a hot spot, built-in Bluetooth, an IP camera and SIP video door phone integration with monitoring, two-way communication and one-touch unlocking. Fanvil’s X210 is compatible with major SIP-based platforms, including those from 3CX, Asterisk, Broadsoft, Metaswitch and Avaya among others.

Grandstream has released a new long-range mobility solution that includes two new DECT cordless IP phones, DP730 and DP722, along with the DP752 DECT Base Station. The system which supports an outdoor range of up to 400 meters and 50 meters indoors targets businesses, warehouses, retail stores and residential environments. Notable features include push-to-talk, gesture control, extended battery life, video streaming and one-touch door control integration with Grandstream’s GDS series of door cameras. The DP752 and DP730 are generally available now; the DP722 is due out in mid-March. Suggested retail prices are $59 USD (DP752), $119 USD (DP730) and $69 USD (DP722).

Metaswitch has announced MaX UC, a new cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solution aimed at enterprises with mobile workers. MaX UC is offered through mobile network operators (MNOs) which is said to ensure service quality and reliability, simple onboarding and intelligent identity control and delivery of a mobile native experience. The primary user interface is the native dialer of a smartphone (iOS or Android), which is blended with network-based voice and messaging services, multiple personas, group communications and collaboration features, for a native mobile UC&C experience. MaX UC is compatible with VoLTE and 3G networks and supports existing authentication, billing, interconnect, mobility, emergency and regulatory requirements. MaX UC for the enterprise joins the MaX by Metaswitch portfolio that also includes solutions for individuals (MaX One), families (MaX Family) and small teams (MaX Micro). MaX UC is available to service providers in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

Microsoft continues to add new capabilities to its Teams chat-based workspace, including location-sharing, a smart camera and secure messaging capabilities. The new features target “first line” workers who perform service or task-oriented jobs in retail or on factory floors, for example. These workers, who are mobile and typically not working at a desk, are considered by Microsoft to be an untapped market that can benefit from its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services. Microsoft Teams also supports a new video chat solution from Kaltura for recording, capturing a screen, uploading and sharing videos, and presenting and watching live webcasts on any device, from within the Teams environment. Microsoft Skype Rooms has been rebranded as Microsoft Teams Rooms and adds a “One Touch Join” feature; a “proximity detection” system is coming next.

Mitel released a number of new capabilities for its on-site portfolio of unified communications and contact center products, namely the MiVoice, MiCollab and MiContact Center solutions. New software releases in the latter half of 2018 include MiCollab 8.1 which adds some call control and mobility enhancements, GDPR compliance and improved integration with Skype for Business. MiVoice Business (formerly Mitel Communications Director or MCD) R9 introduces the Linux operating system which aims to improve security, simplify installation and speed up delivery of future features. MiVoice Connect (formerly ShoreTel Connect ONSITE) adds compatibility with Mitel’s 6900 Series phones. All of Mitel’s on-site solutions (MiVoice Office 250 and 400, MiVoice Business, MiVoice 5000, MiVoice MX-ONE, MiVoice Connect) now support the company’s CloudLink Gateway technology that connects premises-based telephony systems (Key or PBX systems from Mitel or any other vendor) to a series of focused cloud applications that are currently in development by Mitel and that leverage Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Momentum Telecom to acquire Metro Optical Solutions, a provider of managed network, data and internet solutions to enterprise and carrier customers globally. The acquisition makes Momentum a “one-stop shop” for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) and now network connectivity. Channel partners from each company will benefit. Existing Momentum partners can now sell fiber-based connectivity along with cloud voice and UC, and Metro Optical partners will have access to the Momentum cloud voice and business applications portfolio. The partner communities and programs of each company will be consolidated in the coming months (Momentum reportedly has 500 national white label and channel partners).

Nextiva recently unveiled the new Nextiva Contact Center, with now four contact center plans for businesses to choose from. This includes two voice-only call center packages which Nextiva has already been selling and two new, more advanced contact center offerings – Nextiva Contact Center Pro and Nextiva Contact Center Enterprise. The Enterprise version supports omni-channel communications, allowing agents and customers to communicate via phone, e-mail or web-based chat (with SMS and social media interactions coming soon). All four plans are based on BroadSoft technology (now Cisco). Read more here about Nextiva’s CCaaS offers, and the company’s broader vision for its all-in-one business communication software called NextOS. In other news, Nitel and Nextiva have completed multi-site interconnection in five common points of presence (POPs) to improve voice experience across the Nitel network; the two companies began partnering in 2018 to combine network services like Nitel’s SD-WAN and managed security services with Nextiva’s platform for hosted voice, service CRM, live chat and online survey software solutions.

Plantronics entered the huddle room conferencing space with Polycom Studio, a new plug-and-play all-in-one device with integrated speakers and camera that uses a computer’s display or a monitor, TV, or other external device connected to the computer (list price $949). Polycom Studio works with video-as-a-service (VaaS), Web meeting, and team collaboration services, including Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business, Zoom, Cisco Webex Meetings, Google Meet and Amazon Chime. Plantronics also launched the new Calisto 3200 and Calisto 5200 portable, personal speakerphones for personal computer (PC) and mobile devices. Calisto 3200 connects via USB to PC, Mac and tablet devices, while the Calisto 5200 can also connect to smartphone devices using a 3.5mm cable. Calisto 3200 ($99.95) and Calisto 5200 ($149.95) are generally available in the U.S. through Plantronics/Polycom distributors and are currently available for ordering globally.

Ribbon Communications is set to acquire business and technology assets of Anova Data and its cloud-based, streaming analytics platform that will complement Ribbon’s existing security and analytics platform, Ribbon Protect. The technology acquisition also furthers Ribbon’s expansion into the network optimization, security and data monetization areas. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.

RingCentral announced it will acquire privately-held Connect First, a cloud-based outbound/blended customer engagement software developer based in Boulder, Colorado (expected closing is during the first financial quarter of 2019).  The acquisition expands RingCentral’s customer engagement portfolio that already includes RingCentral Contact Center for inbound communications and workforce optimization (based on NICE inContact), RingCentral Engage for customer engagement via digital channels such as in-app messaging, social media, live chats, email and online community forums (from the Dimelo acquisition in October 2018). Connect First technology, which runs on Amazon Web Services, will add support for outbound and blended customer interactions. Per RingCentral, the focus for 2019 will be on integrating Connect First with the RingCentral platform, though the company has not announced any specifics as yet. RingCentral has already begun integrating the Dimelo technology into its own portfolio, recently branding the Dimelo solution as RingCentral Engage and announcing plans to integrate this technology with RingCentral’s team messaging and video solutions in the first half of 2019. In related news, Dimelo, a RingCentral Company, announced integration with the WhatsApp Business chat messaging service, adding this as a new channel for companies to interact with their customers.

Talkdesk ’s Winter 19 software release of its Enterprise Contact Center adds a number of new capabilities that aim to improve agent-customer interaction. Talkdesk Omnichannel (an application that provides integrated customer support through various digital channels - SMS, live chat, email and various social media and messaging apps) has been expanded with rules-based presence sync, presenting agents with high priority social media posts (social listening) and a synchronized view of SMS, live chat and app messaging interactions. Talkdesk Omnichannel is also now embedded in the Callbar free-floating agent interface. Winter 19 also enhances the Talkdesk Studio intelligent routing flow designer with optimized workflows, multilingual speech-to-text and intuitive editing tools for contact center administrators.  The new Talkdesk xConnect solution connects Talkdesk to an existing PBX and/or carrier via SIP trunking.

Yealink released the new T5 Business Phone Series, including Prime Business Phones T53, T53W, T54W and T57W for active voice communication users, the T56A, T58A and T58V smart media phones with Android operating system for installation of third-party applications, and the Smart Video Phone VP59 with 8-inch capacitive adjustable touch screen phone, Android 7.1 OS and 1080p@80 full HD video. Notable features include an adjustable LCD, built-in Bluetooth and WiFi, content sharing, and Acoustic Shield technology to suppress background noise. The Yealink T56 and T58 desk phones, Yealink CP960 conference phone are among the first IP devices certified to run Microsoft Teams natively (these devices can also run Skype for Business).

Zoom Voice cloud phone system is now generally available to Zoom customers in the US and Canada as an add-on to Zoom’s paid web conferencing platform. For $10/user/month, Zoom Voice enables popular business phone system features and PSTN calling over cellular voice, cellular data or WiFi connections. To purchase Zoom Voice, customers must have at least one Zoom Pro license ($14.99/host/month) and more than 50 employees. Zoom is well-known for its software-based conference room solution, Zoom Rooms, for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat and webinars, so Zoom Voice marks the cloud video conferencing provider’s entry into a new space - the unified communications as a service (UCaaS) market. Calling support is in 16 countries initially. The service will roll out globally to all businesses and broader geographies over 2019. In other news, Zoom is expected to announce an IPO (initial public offering) as soon as April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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