Welcome to 2015, and to part two of our annual predictions for Unified Communications in the coming year. In part one of our predictions, we talked about continued growth for IP Telephony and UC endpoints, softphones, VoLTE, and progress on replacing the PSTN with VoIP. Today, we’ll cover video, WebRTC’s likely advances and roadblocks, some roadblocks Skype for Business could face, the saga of net neutrality, and the issue of voice over Wi-Fi as a substitute for legacy carrier voice services.
Late last year, President Obama proposed that the FCC regulate broadband services under Title II service of the 1934 Telecommunications Act. While Obama has made his wishes known, it is the FCC that must decide whether or not to classify Internet services under Title II. If the FCC does decide to reclassify, then the decision to head back to the U.S. Supreme Court for a ruling on the legitimacy of the reclassification. We are not optimistic that the U.S. Congress will be able to come up with a legislative solution.
Microsoft’s decision to rebrand Lync as “Skype for Business” in 2015 may turn out to be fine with premise-based UC solution providers, but we expect to see some foot-dragging or even some downright fighting this year by cloud-based UC providers against making this transition. By making Lync a service that already counts 300 million voice subscribers, carriers will have plenty of reason to counter Microsoft’s strategy.
On the future of video, we think 2015 will be a banner year for video collaboration and video calls. As we have predicted before, we expect to see more video minutes of use in 3 or 4 years than voice minutes as both consumers and business users embrace the benefits of a visual communications experience.
We also expect to see more widespread adoption of WebRTC this year, despite ongoing lack of support from Microsoft and Apple, both of which will likely continue to shun native browser support in Internet Explorer and Safari. Fortunately, WebRTC gateways (both cloud- and premise-based) and multi-purpose session border controllers will mitigate interoperability issues.
In 2014, cable providers deployed millions of hot spots that provide free access to their wireline broadband subscribers. Although initially deployed as a way to attract and keep broadband customers, we think they will start to push the advantage of these hot spots to offload mobile data usage and substitute for voice calling provided by telco competitors. The biggest roadblock will be a lack of voice roaming between Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular networks—not because it isn’t technically possible, but because mobile carriers won’t have any business advantage to enable Wi-Fi for mobile data roaming.
At the end of 2015, we’ll come back and see how well we did with our predictions, and in our next edition, we’ll report from the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), currently underway in Las Vegas.