Hosted VoIP Captures MSP Attention

Ring, ring. Opportunity appears to be calling in the hosted VoIP market -- where service providers are eying hosted voice as a portfolio offering, with a range of players making moves in that direction. Here's a sampling of developments.

Black Box Network Services, a $1 billion voice and data networking company,  earlier this month branched into hosted voice over IP, entering an agreement to resell CoreDial’s services.

Meanwhile, IP comms specialist 8x8 Inc. inked a teaming pact with Level 3 Communications to pursue federal government business telecommunications deployments that include hosted IP telephony services.

Across the pond, InTechnology, a managed services provider in the United Kingdom, is partnering with POSTcti, a Microsoft Gold Voice Specialist Partner, to provide a hosted Microsoft Office Communication Server service with integrated IP telephony.

And Smoothstone, which provides unified IP communications as managed services, recently cited an uptick in hosted voice.

Michael Laughlin, VP of shared services at Black Box Network Services, said market research from such firms as Gartner and Frost & Sullivan encouraged the company in its first foray into hosted IP telephony. Frost & Sullivan, for example, forecasts the number of installed hosted IP telephony lines to hit the 3.6 million mark in 2014. That compares with a bit under a million lines installed at the end of 2008, according to the market researcher.

Laughlin said he sees hosted voice as a cost-effective alternative to traditional and IP-based private branch exchanges. He said the approach removes a sizable capital outlay for on-premise equipment -- along with the necessity of patching and maintaining gear. Hosted voice makes telephony an operating expense that is easier to manage and plan for, he added.

Can all MSPs get into the game? Doubtful. Some will find it too expensive to built out hosted VoIP infrastructure. And other MSPs don't want to be seen as reseller "agents" for third-party VoIP services. Still, hosted VoIP and unified communications seem to be gaining critical mass.

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