Top 5 UC predictions for 2012

Today we unveil our top five predictions for 2012, looking at expected trends for telepresence, wireless substitution, cloud-based unified communications, BYOD and fixed mobile convergence, and net neutrality.

Since telepresence solutions have become less expensive, we expect to see increasing use of HD video communications across all market segments -- including B2B, C2C and B2C. Video traffic will continue to grow on public IP networks, leaving traffic engineers to consider video first, data second and voice third when it comes to managing bandwidth consumption. Eventually, video will replace voice calls as a preferred real-time communications medium, though we don't expect that to happen in 2012.

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More businesses -- and in particular more small businesses -- will "cut the cord" to wireline voice services, eventually mirroring the trend among consumers. While consumers continue to convert to VoIP-based service offers from cable companies and telcos sold as "digital voice," consumers will also continue their cord-cutting. According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report released in December 2011, more than 3 of every 10 American homes (31.6%) had only wireless telephones.

Server-based architectures have already evolved into cloud-based "communications as a service" (CaaS), along with emerging "unified communications as a service," or UCaaS. Cloud based CaaS and UCaaS are both ideally suited for the small business owner who wants or needs the UC&C features but who doesn't have the resources for a premise-based solution, so we predict heightened competition for market share in the SMB segment as carriers evolve these portfolios. We predict continued growth of UC features across all market segments, especially as many of these "come standard" with premise-based VoIP systems and hosted VoIP services.

The "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend will continue as enterprise networks adapt, supporting mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers that employees initially purchase as consumer electronics. 

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While mobile voice communications will continue to use the legacy voice networks, we'll hold out hope for the third year running that we'll start to see VoIP supported on 4G LTE data channels, enabling more complete integration of fixed mobile communications (FMC). We believe that FMC may represent the biggest opportunity for change in the UC&C ecosystem because effective FMC integration is increasingly a key to successful UC&C deployment and because applications integration represents the biggest void in FMC, leaving plenty of room for improvement when it comes to integrating critical business applications and content access as part of FMC.

Finally, we predict that 2012 will be a banner year for legal and regulatory battles over "net neutrality." Net neutrality rules were first disclosed by the FCC in December 2010, but weren't officially published until September 2011, with an effective date set for November 2011. The U.S. House of Representatives tried to reverse the FCC order with legislation in November 2011; however, efforts to pass the law were defeated in the U.S. Senate. Lawsuits aimed at blocking the FCC regulation have since been filed by numerous parties, including the Wireless Association and Verizon, so the ultimate decision on implementation will now be up to the courts. So we except to see ongoing legal fireworks over net neutrality in 2012.

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