The ability to transform voice into data and send it over the Internet in real time has dramatically altered how we communicate in our personal and professional lives. All over the world, people are using Internet telephony to communicate over long distances at no cost. In corporate environments, business VoIP has ousted landlines, offering a cheaper, more scalable option for voice communication – it's here that VoIP has really planted its roots.
But VoIP's reign as the king of business communication solutions is only just beginning, despite the rise of other forms of business communication such as video conferencing. According to a recent study from Technavio, the global mobile VoIP market is on pace to grow at a compound annual rate of 28 percent through 2020. In part, this growth will be fueled by its ongoing momentum among consumers and businesses alike. Another reason VoIP will still be so viable in years to come is because of the invaluable role it will continue to play in unified communications systems.
UC without VoIP is like a plane without wings
The goal of UC is really just to create a centralized way to oversee and interact with multiple channels of communication – voice, email, instant messaging, video, file-sharing and more. While each of these communication channels serves a well-defined purpose that contributes to the productivity of an organization, none is as important as voice. This is especially true in industries where clients are very high-touch, or where there is a distinct need for remote collaboration among personnel.
There's certainly a lot of value in being able to pick up on non-verbal cues with video conferencing; however, even in a video conference, most of the communication happens verbally. Imagine having to pantomime everything on a video call. Furthermore, there's a lot more pressure to perform when on a video call. Appearances, facial expressions and more will all factor into the communication. Given that so many people are choosing to work from locations outside of the office, audio conferencing is often the preferred, or more sensible choice.
A sustainable solution
One of the most significant use cases for VoIP is in the contact center, where hundreds or thousands of calls are made and received every day. In these environments, workers are completely at the mercy of the UC platform. They need to be able to do all of the following: switch to a communication platform of the caller's choice, access all data on file and when applicable, analyze data to improve customer service, record calls and if necessary, share screens.
Sometimes, contact centers will need to hop on a video conference with a customer. However, video-calls can be immense bandwidth hogs, according to TechTarget contributor John Bartlett, and on top of all the other demands being placed on a contact center's network, would be far less sustainable than Internet telephony.
Smooth collaboration everywhere you go
"Part of VoIP's appeal is its mobile capabilities."
Part of VoIP's appeal is its mobile capabilities. In conjunction with a UC softphone, calls can be made and received, voice messages can be checked and call recordings reviewed from any location where there is wireless Internet connectivity. According to The Economist, we may actually be in the midst of a "Wi-Fi first" shift in which wireless Internet becomes more ubiquitous than cellular connectivity.
Key collaboration features such as screen sharing and file sharing – both of which function seamlessly with VoIP audio conferencing – can be achieved from almost any device, as long as it's connected to the Internet. Again, video conferencing provides many of the same benefits, but at a much greater expense to bandwidth. Often, the best way to collaborate with remote employees, or to have routine catchup calls with clients, is still audio conferencing.
What's in store for VoIP?
With the Internet of Things at hand, there will be an increasing number of possible ways to communicate. Smartwatches and smart glasses, for instance, have already proven to be of some value to organizations. As these and other innovations continue to make their way into offices, there's little doubt that many of them may also be integrated with existing UC platforms, much in the same way that smartphones and tablets have.
If and when this happens, VoIP will still be putting the VIP in UC. It's safe to say that it's not going anywhere, anytime soon.