AudioCodes at HTNG US 2016

Back to the Future for Hotel Communications

Earlier this month I visited the HTNG 2016 North American Conference, where attendees learned about the latest on hotel technology.  It was exciting to see how technologies of the future are integrating into various areas of the hospitality industry, including advanced door lock systems, hotel management and guest experience solutions. But my main interest was on the future of hotel communications.

AudioCodes at HTNG US 2016

The move to IP is already happening

I had the opportunity to hear hoteliers, service providers and solution partners express their views on how they see this area developing. Hotel communications, primarily telephony today, is shifting to IP with obsolete PBX systems being replaced with IP solutions, either on-premises or on a hosted platform in the cloud. This change is not just a question of upgrading the infrastructure; it also enables the addition of advanced services and applications to the traditional basic calling service.

During my discussions, I heard about several different approaches: some hotel brands are looking to minimize their on-premises deployment and move to a hosted communication solution (or hosted PBX) while others are more hesitant to adopt cloud solutions and prefer to replace their aging equipment with new IP-based solutions, installed locally.

What about analog room phones?

When you speak to managers from leading chains such as Marriott, Hyatt and Intercontinental, there is one thing, however, that they all agree on – there is no sense in replacing existing analog room phones with new IP phones. Those I spoke to are all looking to integrate their analog phones into the new communications platform.

Hoteliers mentioned to me that they are planning to keep at least 95% of the analog phones they have already deployed. AudioCodes recently published an infographic and application note that give some insight into the technical and economic thinking behind such a decision.

AudioCodes solutions at HTNG

We presented our One Voice for hospitality solutions at HTNG in conjunction with BluIP, a service provider that recently announced that it has selected and certified AudioCodes new high-density analog gateway, the MediaPack 1288 as part of its hosted communications platform for hotels. The MediaPack 1288 is an ideal device to enable the migration of legacy hotel communications systems to hosted PBX platforms since it enables hundreds of analog room phones to be connected, via the existing copper infrastructure, to the new IP-based communications solution, whether hosted or on-premises, thus reducing the costs involved in such a change.

In addition to analog gateways, our solution for hospitality includes the AudioCodes Mediant 500 platform that provides survivability and resiliency, as well as our high definition IP phones for hotel staff.

What is clear from my visit to the HTNG event is that as much as the industry is pushing towards all-IP solutions in hotels (and similar verticals such as education and healthcare), the old analog room phones are here to stay. AudioCodes has the offering to make the analog devices part of the hotel communications future.

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

Today, Tomorrow, and In-Between: Skype for Business Observations with Fortune 50 companies

On my flight back to Israel from Enterprise Connect 2016 at Orlando, I decided to recap my top 3 observations about Skype for Business from spending time with some of our largest customers.  During the show, I sat down with one of the world’s largest energy companies, one of the biggest pharma producers, and one huge food maker that feeds us. They all deploy Lync/SfB and they all shared the following views.

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

A vision is not enough

“Yeah, I get what Microsoft is trying to do with CloudPBX, but…” was a common amongst them.  Seems the “Everything Cloud” vision is compelling when left described by 2 words only.  Numerous caveats are observed:

  • How do I gradually migrate there? Because overnight replacement of a great number of PBX’s serving x0000s of users is clearly not an option.
  • Do I really want to relinquish control of all my users to a Front-End server that is hosted by Microsoft? I understand Microsoft is racing Google and wants as many Enterprise users on their cloud as possible, but is that good for my company, or just for Microsoft? Can I customize to preserve my competitive enterprise edge?

Show me the money savings

Microsoft seems to have correctly identified that the heavy monthly costs of conferencing services is something these enterprises love to cut.  Offering simple, hop on/off services right within SfB, with intuitive integration into Outlook is clearly a compelling proposition.  However, if I am going to send all my global voice traffic to the cloud for conferencing, I must guarantee excellent voice quality and experience.  Getting this done requires costly MPLS infrastructure.  How do I calculate the actual cost or savings by moving to the cloud?  Overall, it seems Microsoft still hasn’t convinced these customers that the TCO through the cloud offering and on a global level, is a favorable one.

Old habits are hard to break

A clean, wire-free workspace with voice, video and chat integration, and slick “click to everything”.  Nirvana!

There are a few “Buts”…

Not all of the employees easily say goodbye to their phones and switch over to headsets.  Nor are they proving responsible to own a small and expensive wireless ear piece, without losing or taking it out of their pants before washing. The bigger “over the head” headsets annoy some of the users, and it seems most “Born before 1980” are used to transferring a call by a push of a button, and hate reaching out to their computer for that.  Last, but not least, it seems a great number of the international markets associate a desk phone with seniority and status.  Seems the IP Phone is going to be with us for a good number of years to come.

 

Read more

CloudBond 365 gradual migration to CloudPBX

VoIPerfect less-MPLS solution for resilient, quality-assured VoIP

AudioCodes IP Phones with IT management tools for SfB

Cloud UC Adoption - source Gartner

Breaking Up is Hard to Do! Smart Cloud Transformation Helps Your Customers Let Go of Their On-Premises PBX

Following my previous post about PSTN to All-IP transformation market trends and our whitepaper “4 Key Points to Successful PSTN to All-IP Transformation Journey” describing some of the All-IP transformation challenges, today I wanted to explore the Smart Cloud Transformation concept a little further and suggest an efficient way for the operators to migrate their business customers to cloud services.

It is clear that the market is shifting to cloud services and we are seeing businesses worldwide seeking hosted alternatives for on-premises PBX systems, driven by the demand for cost-effective and flexible services. Small businesses have been the early adopters, but this is changing, as an increasing number of medium-sized and larger businesses contract for cloud services.

Cloud UC Adoption - source Gartner

From the operator’s point of view, the migration to cloud services such as hosted UC represents an opportunity for additional revenue streams, and their network transformation to All-IP is another trigger to offer such services.

What to do with all the customers who are still using on-premises PBX?

The problem is that the majority of business customers are still using on-premises PBXs, and even if during the PSTN migration process the operator replaces the business’s PRI and ISDN connections with SIP trunks, there is still a need to replace on-premises equipment before migrating them to cloud services. This situation raises two challenges that operators need to face:

  • Business customers are used to working with their on-premises PBX systems. They have invested funds in those systems, and they are concerned about moving their voice services to the cloud and the disruption to on-going operations that might occur during this process
  • Moving a business customer to the cloud can be a complex task requiring the replacement of existing equipment such as desk-phones, cables etc. This task will involve sending a technician to the customer and can increase the cost of the migration to the point where it is higher than the potential revenue this customer will generate

Use a gradual cloud migration

The main concern that operator must address during the migration from TDM to IP is ensuring that it is done with minimal impact on the customer. If the operator deploys a smart CPE device as part of this migration process in order to connect the customer’s TDM trunks rapidly to the SIP network, this device can serve as a “foot in the door” to be exploited later to provide additional cloud services. These new services can be offered in a gradual way whereby some applications are offered as enhancements in the first stage, increasing the stickiness of the SIP trunk. Then, the business can expand the number of extensions by adding extensions from hosted UC platforms, together with enhancement features such as collaboration, and gradually, and safely migrate all of its telephony services to the cloud.

Modular Design

Using a modular CPE design will enable remote installation of gateways, SBCs and routing applications in the same device as well as the activation of the most suitable configuration for the desired service. This, in turn, will enable operators to connect their customers to their SIP trunking services quickly and with minimum disruption, while being able to migrate these customers in the future to cloud services without a technician needing to revisit the customer and reinstall equipment.

Hybrid Solution

The use of hybrid CPEs enables operators to benefit from a coexistence solution that merges the on-premises PBX and the new hosted PBX into a single telephony solution. The hybrid design allows for a gradual migration to hosted PBX services while continuing to use the existing on-premises PBX system. Operators benefit from reduced on-site technician time and from an improved cloud migration offering to their end customers.

Modular CPE that can run any application

Modular CPE that can run any application

Coexistence between the on-premises and the cloud

Coexistence between the on-premises and the cloud

Operators need to take into consideration that even though the transformation of the TDM network to all-IP represents an opportunity for additional revenue streams, the migration of business customers to cloud-based revenue services may not be possible immediately. Using a smart cloud transformation approach will help the operators to do efficiently and securely.

More information regarding All-IP transformation trends and leading operators’ activities in the market can be found in the “4 Key Points to Successful PSTN to All-IP Transformation Journey” whitepaper.

WP - 4 Key Points to Successful PSTN to All-IP Transformation Journey

 

ALL-IP-Transformation-Infographics

Are You Planning to Kill Your PSTN or Just Waiting for it to Die?

We are living in exciting times as more and more fixed line operators have already begun to transition their PSTN networks to All-IP networks. AudioCodes’ recently released whitepaper “4 Key Points to Successful PSTN to All-IP Transformation” covers some of the leading operators’ PSTN migration plans. Some of these operators, like Deutsche Telekom, have already taken significant steps into this plan. DT completed the PSTN migration in Macedonia, Slovakia and Croatia and committed to shutting down all of its European PSTN networks by the end of 2018.

Good analyst and media coverage on some of these All-IP transformation projects can be found in Iain Morris’ Light Reading blog posts such as “DT Completes All-IP Move in Croatia” and “Does BT Lag European Peers on All-IP?”, I also recommend an interview with Axel Clauberg, VP of Aggregation, Transport, IP & Fixed Access at DT in which he discusses DT’s ongoing migration to an All-IP network architecture (DT’s Journey to a New IP World).

Though motivators such as the increasing maintenance costs of the PSTN switches, real-estate considerations and increasing competition from OTT players are making operators realize that they need to migrate their legacy networks to All-IP, the process is far from simple.  In fact, it includes many elements such as migrating the core network to IP, replacing the customer’s on-premises equipment, introducing new services to end-customers and more.

ALL-IP-Transformation-Infographics

At AudioCodes we defined 4 key points with a recommendation for the operators to follow as part of their PSTN migration plans.

1. The Time is Right for All-IP Transformation

Even though there are many drivers for PSTN migration, the process is complicated and will take a long time. For some operators, PSTN migration is still a low priority, while others are ahead of the curve, but on one thing there is market consensus: PSTN migration will be necessary and urgent within the coming years. Many TDM switches vendors already declared end of life and support, challenging the operators with increased maintenance costs and a lack of spare parts and expertise. Adding to the equation, operators that already have plans for completing PSTN migration by 2020, will cause vendor support to decrease significantly. Operators need to have a plan of action now or risk being stranded with an obsolete network

2. Focus on Business Customers

Although one of the main triggers for operators to transfer to All-IP network is the significant decrease in the number of PSTN residential lines, they need to keep in mind that once they start the transition process, it will cover 100% of their network, including business lines. It is critical for operators to focus on their business customers during the PSTN migration process for several reasons:

  • In terms of revenue, business customers generate (globally) 44% of the total fixed voice lines revenue
  • Business customers, when compared to residential ones, are more sensitive to changes in voice services as they are critical to their on-going business operations
  • The potential future voice service revenue from business customers is much higher, compared to the residential market, when moving to All-IP services such as cloud UC services

3. Ensure a Successful PSTN Migration Process

A significant challenge to the transformation of PSTN to All-IP is the long process that operators will face, such as migrating on a massive scale on time and on budget and ensuring that the transformation has zero impact on existing services and end users. Focusing on these key pillars during the PSTN migration process will help operators to achieve optimal results:

  • Cover any deployment scenario and migrate 100% of the network with solutions for any topology type (on-premises and CO), for any customer size from SOHO and up to large enterprise, and for customers using any existing service
  • Avoid customer churn – make sure to have zero impact on end customers during the migration process and ensure high quality service after migration to the new IP network is complete
  • Minimize migration costs using reliable and easy deployment devices and automated services that will reduce engineering and support costs
  • Optimize migration time with quick installation and configuration of on-site devices by deploying solutions that offer wide-ranging interoperability, zero-touch provisioning and remote configuration tools
  • Enable future cloud services using devices that are “cloud ready”. This will ensure operators can achieve a quick, easy and cost-effective move to cloud services once the PSTN to All-IP transformation is complete

4. Use Smart Cloud Transformation

Congratulations! You have successfully migrated your network and services to All-IP. Now it’s time to start and harness the power of the new all-IP network and to generate more revenues from services such as cloud UC. Well, not so fast. During the PSTN migration process the operator will need to disconnect business customers’ voice systems from the PSTN and reconnect them to the IP network using VoIP gateways. 77% of these business customers are still using on-premises PBX systems, and although they will now be connected to the all-IP network, migrating their telephony services to the cloud is not a straightforward matter.

A ‘smart cloud transformation’ approach will allow operators to address this challenge:

  • Don’t try it all at once. A gradual migration that is based on hybrid and modular solutions will enable the operator, to connect their customers to IP services quickly and with minimum disruption, while also being able to migrate these customers to cloud services without needing to revisit the customer and reinstall equipment in the future. In addition, the on-premises PBX and the new hosted PBX can be merged into a single telephony solution
  • Provide solutions that will enhance the advantages of the cloud and that will enable to allay customers’ fears of moving to the cloud. Such solutions should include features such as superb voice quality, backup options, ‘always on’ services, and holistic management and monitoring that will enable the operator to guaranteed enhanced QoS and QoE

Conclusion

There is no doubt that PSTN migration will become a critical issue over the coming years. Service providers need to have a plan in place now to avoid hurdles that will become more difficult to surmount by 2020.

More information can be found in the AudioCodes white paper “4 Key Points to Successful PSTN to All-IP Transformation”.

WP - 4 Key Points to Successful PSTN to All-IP Transformation Journey