Predictions for 2010, Part Two

* SIP will become more mainstream; non-traditional carriers offering inexpensive voice will find more success

Today we'll pick up where we left off last time, continuing with our predictions for 2010. We'll start with correcting our 2009 timeline predictions for 4G mobile applications. A year ago, we expected to see emerging fixed mobile convergence (FMC) applications designed for 4G networks. We still think this will happen, but it will be 2010 and beyond before FMC takes advantage of the broadband data bandwidth that LTE and WiMAX offer. For 2010, we'd be happy to see VoIP delivered over a 4G network, followed next by unified communications applications. We note that UC is commonly delivered today to 3G handsets, but business-grade VoIP with all the bells and whistles delivered over a 4G cellular network is still in the experimental stage.

We also think that Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking will become more "mainstream" with competitors using SIP trunks to retain or win over voice business. As we discussed earlier this month when XO announced its SIP offering, incumbent carrier SIP offers are available but seem to be well hidden. As is frequently the case, the tier 1 telcos will be forced into openly selling SIP by competing CLECs, by non-traditional providers such as Skype with its SIP offer.

We also think that Skype and other non-traditional carriers who offer really inexpensive voice will have some noticeable success in 2010. While we don't expect that Skype will replace all voice services from the incumbents even in a single business, we do think that in some cases small/midsize businesses and enterprises will turn to providers such as Skype to reduce phone bill expenses because these competitive services can offer an 80% to 90% discount over traditional calling plans in some cases.

When it comes to other nontraditional carriers like the CLECs, we expect some further consolidation in 2010. For example, in October 2009 Comcast announced plans to acquire Cimco, a small Chicago-area CLEC. And last month, Windstream announced plans to acquire NuVox, adding approximately 90,000 business customers. We think acquisitions like these will continue for the foreseeable future.

Finally, on the fate of traditional voice services: these will continue to be replaced by VoIP services, although pace of replacement will slower in 2010 compared to previous years. One critical success factor for providers or value added resellers to win: find a way to reduce enterprise CAPEX whether through hosted services, managed CPE lease programs or carrier financing programs. Businesses will still be wary of spending CAPEX dollars in the coming year.

If you have some thoughts on what you expect in 2010, please send an e-mail to Larry and we'll publish your ideas in a "reader replies" edition.

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