The Future of Unified Communications and Mobility

The future of UC must include an integrated mobile element which will cause the telecommunications market to fundamentally restructure in terms of technology, applications, and market participants. Since mobility is the hottest part of the telecom and IT landscape, it has become the hottest area of UC development. UC is about a decade old, mobility about two decades and what we are seeing is that UC is joining with mobility. Because UC is ultimatyly about uniting today’s disparate communication modes into an integrated whole, mobility plays an enabling role.

 

The most significant trend affecting enterprise communications may well be the constant growth in the use and functionality of mobile communications. The merging of mobility and UC has been an enormous trend, primarily because there are more and more calls made on mobile devices. UC actually can be the way in which an organization unifies and organizes its expanding mobile initiatives. The emergence of the mobile device as the most reliable point of contact, along with the need to integrate the device into the organization’s communication infrastructure, has become one of the primary drivers for UC adoption.

Users are demanding greater mobility and are using the mobile devices and services that they have become accustomed to in their lives outside of work. This demand creates immediate challenges that enterprise managers face as they try to manage and secure mobility usage among their user base. Since the mobile devices can now fit into the communications infrastructure as just another endpoint, the same incremental benefits that UC offers to office-bound gear are also available to mobile devices. In other words, mobile devices just like office desktops, up their value proposition and deliver more favorable return on investment.

Given the relentless pressure to mobilize, how can enterprise managers and decision-makers get a handle on what their users are doing, and continually leverage the newest mobile capabilities to gain competitive advantage for the business?

The key is that the sophistication at all levels – the device, the network, the software and the backend systems – means that the smartphone, netbook, notebook or other device is “seen” by the UC system as just another end point. Mobile devices are fully integrated and they can treat the mobile device as an extension. It’s not clear that many enterprises are doing this in any systematic or comprehensive way, and it seems likely that the more time that passes without this integration; the less likely it is that enterprise communications shops will be able to exert control.

The areas of concern are interoperability between vendor systems and the lack of consistent, pervasive connectivity. Neither of the issues – interoperability between equipment and pervasive connectivity – is specific to mobile UC. The problem of interoperability between disparate UC platforms extends beyond mobility to UC system’s overall.

Concerns and Objectives:

• Bringing mobile users into the core enterprise communications platform

• Mobilizing Unified Communications applications

• Device selection, standardization and configuration

• Security and compliance systems and policies

• Managing the mobile workforce

• Controlling cellular/mobility costs

• Mobile infrastructure: Cellular, Wi-Fi, or both?

There are intriguing longer-term possibilities around mobility, cloud computing, and new types of enterprise applications that live on mobile devices. While it is possible to say that a mobile device now is “just another endpoint,” it is important to qualify that statement by saying that they still require special treatment.

The reality is that UC will have to develop in a multi-vendor environment where the UC elements are integrated and delivered over a variety of wired and wireless networks. The key challenge in integrating mobility will be to deliver the product with the best mix of user features, network options, hardware devices, UC integration, and ultimately address the widest range of requirements.

Jamie Wood, Avatel EVP

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