InterComms :: International Communications Project
  Intercomms Issue 18
Issue 18 Articles

The Future of Cloud Communications

Rod Ullens, CEO and co-founder of Voxbone, forecasts significant changes in communications behaviour driven by the cloud

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Rod Ullens, CEO, Voxbone
Rod Ullens, CEO, Voxbone

Rod Ullens is CEO and Co-Founder of Voxbone, market leader in worldwide geographical, toll-free and iNum® telephone numbers. Voxbone enables Internet communications services providers, wholesale carriers and mobile and fixed national operators to extend their network reach internationally, rapidly and with minimal costs. Voxbone delivers high-quality inbound communications from more than 50 countries and more than 4,000 cities, using its own private global VoIP network – the world’s first and largest backbone dedicated to voice-origination services. Before founding Voxbone, he provided advice, training and seminars to European carriers, such as Belgacom mobile, KPN, France Telecom and Orange, as well as several European governments. Ullens holds a B.S. in telecommunication engineering from the University of Louvain in Belgium.

Cloud computing has been a buzzword for some years, but its impact on the B2B communications market has been limited in terms of revenues. Ullens saw cloud service providers’ business start to take off in 2011 and predicts exponential growth in the coming years.

Cost savings have always been the important driver. Recently, cloud communications services have become simple to order, manage and use. Innovative service providers allow the user to configure a hosted PBX with just a few mouse clicks. This ease and accessibility have convinced many enterprises to move their communications to the cloud.

The real potential for future growth of cloud communications lies in advancements through standardized formats and codecs, which will help video play a major role in external communications.

Q: Where is the value proposition in cloud communications?
A: “PSTN + PBX-like” quality of service will always be a requirement for many companies when they change their communication strategy. Today, the Internet and broadband access networks are much more robust than 10 years ago. In addition, VoIP protocols and platforms have improved considerably regarding redundancy and resilience in case of packet loss or jitter.

Thus, hosted PBXs provided through redundant broadband Internet connections offer uptime comparable to that of their PSTN equivalents. What’s more, long-distance VoIP calls are usually of even better quality than long-distance PSTN calls. Voxbone would not be where it is today if it were not for the impeccable quality of our VoIP services. Security and simplicity are key.

Q: How can service providers leverage the cloud to deliver on the expectations of their customers?
A: Larger multinational corporations see telecommunications as a strategic IT application. Although they are attracted by the cost savings cloud solutions may bring, they are still concerned about security issues. A lot of corporations still struggle with how they can securely and efficiently share their employees’ electronic identities between internal and cloud applications. Cloud communications service providers aiming to serve major corporations should address these concerns.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are looking for simplicity in the first place because managing telecommunications solutions is a burden for them. For this market segment, service providers can benefit from creating all-in-one packages that include hosted PBX, client software and devices, as well as SIP trunks.

What is certain is that as telecommunications have become IP-based and networks have become software-based, small, focused and global service providers are positioned to seize this opportunity.

Q: What is the impact of cloud communications on the existing telecom ecosystem?
A: The continued adoption of cloud communications will affect the telecommunications industry in many ways. The impact may be disruptive in the long term. First, telecommunication services are no longer the exclusive domain of local telecommunications service providers. As these services are often offered via the Internet, national boundaries do not matter. This development benefits customers in that it leads to a wider choice of services and service providers, meaning better prices and service.

As a result of this evolution, the role of local telecommunications service providers may be hollowed in the next five to 10 years. As companies continue to turn to global service providers, local service providers may see the scope of their services reduced to providing fixed and mobile data access to Internet and multinational enterprise VPNs.

Q: How has your own business benefited from cloud-based communications?
A: Voxbone enables cloud communications services, as we provide access to these services from traditional fixed and mobile phone networks. Because of the strong growth of this sector, cloud service providers and application providers contributed substantially to Voxbone’s growth in 2011. We have acquired many new customers in this area and helped existing customers that offer cloud-based services grow significantly.

Q: What will be the biggest growth areas in the cloud communications field?
A: Unified or “rich” communications services have the highest potential for growth, for both business (hosted PBX) and residential (mobile VoIP) markets. Cloud communications services are the best candidates for outsourcing by enterprises because they generally require little customization.

The growth of cloud communications will accelerate the delivery of advanced features, such as video calling and conferencing. While video has been around for some time, the big breakthrough in this area is still ahead of us and depends mainly on standardizing formats and codecs. While many companies use video calling and conferencing internally, video does not play a major role in external communications – yet. That will change over the next few years, thanks in part to cloud-based services.

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