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SMEs favouring free VoIP

Small and medium enterprises are growing increasingly keen on VoIP, which is good news for telcos that have launched their own IP telephony services but bad news in that many SME’s are turning to Skype and other public VoIP providers rather than business grade solutions from telcos.

The findings come from end-user research commissioned by industry analyst Ovum, which found that a number of large former incumbent operators in developed markets have launched voice over broadband offerings for small businesses, at least partly in response to the threat from companies like Skype.

Skype recently claimed that 30 per cent of its 200 million registered users are business users. Although it should be noted that as registration is free, a sizeable proportion of these are likely to be occasional users only.

Ovum analyst Pauline Trotter said that the challenge for established telcos is how they can they compete in the SME market against free or almost free service providers such as Skype.

“Established telcos must ensure that their voice services for small businesses are simple offerings with ‘entry level’ pricing. They can then work to add enhanced capabilities including unified communications features such as such as conferencing, collaboration, presence and mobility features,” Trotter said. “Telcos should play to their strengths and emphasise their superior quality of service and support capabilities, the breadth of their service offerings as well as their strong reputation in this market.”

As many small businesses are confused about the technical terminology of VoIP, most equate VoIP with cheaper, rather than enhanced capabilities. Those seeking to enter this space have to display how factors such as quality, support and breadth of offering are backed up by reality. Services such as Skype are inherently reliable and already provide useful features such as instant messaging, audio conferencing and video calling,” said Trotter.

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