Orange Business Services has announced today what it claims is the market’s first Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) global offering.
As Mobile Europe can exclusively reveal, the solution enables enterprises to deploy video conferencing, unified messaging, IM and telephony together in an app onto all mobile and desktop devices, via a web portal hosted in the cloud.
Building on its existing Cisco-powered Business Together unified communications (UC) offering, Orange Business Services is expanding its service to become a multi-tenanted Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform that supports every smartphone OS apart from BlackBerry 10 and which integrates current UC and VPN technologies such as Cisco WebEx, Cisco Jabber, IBM’s Sametime and Juniper Pulse.
Targeted at major MNCs, Business Together as a Service is customisable to customers’ needs and doesn’t require any infrastructure – just the minimum of one mobile VPN connection.
If customers don’t have that, Orange Business Services can provide its own mobile VPN solution such as Flexible SSL.
IT managers just log onto the web portal and can set policies and rules to deploy a full range of features in client apps instantly to employees’ devices.
Video conferences, for example, can be hosted that support up to 100 people at the same time, according to tests performed by Orange Business Services so far.
“In the old days, everyone had a PBX system to maintain and you had to purchase a lot of hardware and keep upgrading it,” says Cedric Parent, Director of Marketing, Unified Communications, Orange Business Services.
“We have proved to the customer that we can hook them up to a laptop, a handset or tablet in one minute once the web portal is set up. We manage all the licences and technical aspects so the customer doesn’t have to deal with any of these headaches.”
Depending on where the customer wants to host the service, Orange Business Services can integrate with existing legacy PBX systems and host the service on-premises, but it can also be hosted in a private, public or hybrid cloud, in Orange Business Services data centres as well as Microsoft’s Office 365 data centres.
Sandra O’Boyle, Research Director at Current Analysis, said the hosted IP telephony market didn’t take off as much as expected and, instead, has evolved into UC being offered as a service behind which there is much more momentum.
Evan Kirchheimer, Practice Leader of the Enterprise team at Ovum Telecoms is impressed with the MDM addition, which he described as “a good move”.
He explained: “It’s pretty advanced to deploy the apps this way and is a differentiator. Video is very bandwidth heavy and one of the things inhibiting growth of video conferencing is that if someone is running a Cisco system and another person is running a Polycom system, it’s not easy to interconnect and hold a video conference between the two.
“If this system allows all types of devices to connect, this is compelling. We have found that fixed and mobile UC clients, social and collaboration tools and mobile video are most likely to increase dramatically over the next two years.”
Solving the BYOD problem
O’Boyle believes that carriers need to be willing to personalise UC for each customer, no matter how far and wide the deployment, due to the fact that it’s hard to sell UC and enterprises are reviewing their operation expenditures with a fine-toothed comb right now.
“In this economic climate, no one will throw out anything that is still doing the job. If they’re expanding into a new region like Asia, they might decide, ‘We’ll just go straight to UCaaS, but in the headquarters in Paris, our PBX system works fine, so can we just add a UC layer on top of our existing communications system?’
“No operator has the luxury to tell the customers to throw out their systems and get a new one. They’re really looking for advice. Companies want to know how much it’s going to cost them long-term over a five-year contract [for example], how it compares to what they have already.”
MNCs are concerned about BYOD and if there is nothing else available, their employees will have to use Skype, unless carriers can offer them the whole package and convince them of the benefits and savings, such as being able to look at mobile and fixed expenditure together.
“On the mobile side, we’re seeing [enterprise] customers looking at their fixed and mobile spend. Mobile has been purchased differently from fixed in the past, more de-centralised and [using] local procurement, this involves unifying their telecom expense management systems so you know the total spend on communications, which is helpful.”
Orange Business Services is currently the leader in global IP telephony through its cost-saving ability to carry calls over IP using SIP trunking in 109 countries, which is much more than its nearest competitor.
Over 1.2 million IP telephony end-users currently use products from Orange Business Services, including the 40 large enterprises that have already signed up to use Business Together as a Service.
Other operators are not far behind. AT&T is also on track to deliver global UCaaS in over 40 countries as is Telefonica and other global network operators such as BT.
As European Communications reports, Orange Business Services also announced a major deal to provide manufacturing conglomerate 3M with a multinational unified communications solution that would support 20,000 employees across 75 sites in 25 countries across EMEA.