Incumbent providers are upping their game with AI-enabled capabilities.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

April 9, 2020

13 Min Read
Twenty, 20, SD-WAN providers
Jörge röse-oberreich/Shutterstock

What a difference a year can make for UCaaS providers in this highly competitive and rapidly changing field.

Demand for UCaaS has exploded as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on globally. But the market already was seeing shifts in demand, the arrival of new players and legacy providers upping their game.

This is our third annual “CP List” focused on UCaaS providers, with analysts and other experts sharing their views on what it takes to succeed with the technology. It includes an updated list and fresh views on changes in the competitive landscape.

Forrester analyst Jay McBain cites continued maturation of the UCaaS market with consolidation and price compression as indicators.


Forrester’s Jay McBain

“There are startups building disruptive point solutions … and the larger providers need to welcome them into the ecosystem,” he said. “With line-of-business executives making 65% of all tech decisions, the number and diversity of UCaaS buyers have expanded considerably. Providers need to understand these new customer journeys, and build a channel program that attracts partners who can best serve these new customers.”

Brian Babich, AppSmart‘s senior director of sales, said we haven’t seen a race to zero as with bandwidth services.


AppSmart’s Brian Babich

“The industry has dedicated resources to application integration, improving analytics and development of their own collaboration tools,” he said. “Clients are experiencing value in the improved performance of the UCaaS platforms and recently added integration features. There is always room for negotiation on pricing if the deal is the right size and the provider sees where the fit makes sense for them to win the business.”

Raul Castanon, senior analyst of workforce collaboration for 451 Research/S&P Global Market Intelligence, said incumbent providers are “upping their game” with AI-enabled capabilities, and a unified end user experience with tight integrations across messaging, voice and video.

COVID-19 is creating additional challenges for UCaaS providers, he said.


451 Research’s Raul Castanon

“These are no doubt tough times for UC/UCaaS vendors,” he said. “On one hand, even though it is an opportunity to expand their market footprint, it will put their capacity to the test and they will have to invest heavily, but may not see the benefits until much later. Furthermore, the spike in usage is made up largely of freemium users and only a small percentage will convert to paid customers. Not all vendors will be able to sustain an unexpected increase in demand without the corresponding revenue for too long. If this situation extends through the end of the year, it could lead to market consolidation and [fewer] vendors.”

Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates, said the big question is who’s making money.

“A lot of companies like Slack are making a lot of waves, and building up numbers and stuff, but they’re not making money,” he said. “RingCentral is just about at break even, I think Vonage is kind of making some money and I don’t think 8×8 is profitable at the moment. There’s been a very big push in the market over the last year or two to build market share and it’s the freemium model where you just build up your customer bases quickly and as high as you can, and then you worry later about how to make money with it. And some companies may run out of runway to do that.”

Crowding and “commodifying” are making it harder to make money, Arnold said. Companies will need to be more aggressive and give it away just to stay in the game, he said.


Arnold & Associates’ Jon Arnold

“That’s going to take its toll,” he said. “That’s going to drive eventually a lot of the smaller players out and I think that’s going to be important. So to me, that’s what success looks like in this environment when markets are tanking and investors are nervous, and when they see companies bleeding, they run far and fast.”

Based on feedback from analysts and experts, and recent news reports, we’ve compiled a list, in alphabetical order, of 20 top UCaaS providers that are making the most of the current competitive landscape and charting success. The list offers a mix of well-known providers as well as lesser-known companies that are making big strides in UCaaS.


Arnold and McBain cited 8×8 as a successful provider. This week, 8×8 rolled out its new Business Readiness Kit that helps businesses and organizations prepare their employees to safely and securely work from home. It provides cloud voice, chat, video meetings and contact center on one, open cloud technology platform.


Avaya remains on our list of successful providers. The company hopes to make a big splash in the market with its new Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral. Avaya Cloud Office allows workforces to meet, share and collaborate no matter where they are.

“It used to be enough to say we can make the phone ring and be easy to deploy,” Babich said. “In recent days, partners are being asked by their clients to move them to UCaaS providers that can provide the integration, away from what was a solid working system.”

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Arnold and Castanon cited AWS as an interesting challenger.

“In December, AWS launched the Amazon Chime SDK, which could potentially disrupt the business communications landscape by providing customers another way to consume real-time communications,” Castanon said.

With Amazon Chime SDK, developers create customized calling experiences, manage microphones and cameras, and control meeting features.


Arnold, Castanon and McBain cited Cisco as a successful provider. Due to COVID-19, Cisco WebEx logged 5.5 billion meeting minutes during the first 11 days of March and 3.2 million meetings per day ever since, McBain said.

“In addition to unifying the end-user experience, Cisco continues to innovate with AI-enabled capabilities with Webex Assistant, incorporating assets from its Voicea acquisition,” Castanon said.

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Arnold and McBain cited Dialpad as a successful provider. The company is making paid versions of all of its products – Dialpad Talk, Dialpad Sell, Dialpad Support and UberConference – available for free to companies and individuals moving to remote work due to COVID-19.


Arnold and McBain named Fuze a successful provider. Last month, Fuze unveiled its integrated CCaaS solution embedded within its UCaaS platform. It reduces the friction of switching between UCaaS and CCaaS applications for contact center agents and supervisors. And it provides cross-functional collaboration within their organizations.

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Arnold, Babich, Castanon and McBain cited Google as a solid player in UCaaS. Castanon said Google is leveraging its leadership position with AI and building synergies with its productivity suite.

“UCaaS solutions are effective when they meet the changing needs of clients and are easy to use for their employees,” Babich said. “If a system is feature-rich, but too complicated to implement and use, clients will not see the full benefit of the system and the investment made in committing to the platform will not be fully realized.”


Arnold and McBain cited Intermedia as a successful provider. Intermedia is making its AnyMeeting Pro available to all new users for free through the end of 2020, with full video conferencing features and no meeting time limits.

“A successful provider of UCaaS has built an ecosystem where different partner types can take advantage of downstream opportunities,” McBain said. “Examples include a marketplace where adjacent ISVs and consultants can be found, open APIs where software developers, integration specialists and workflows can be customized, and programs that promote transactional and nontransactional partners with personalized onboarding, incentives, co-selling and co-marketing opportunities.”

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Arnold and McBain cited LogMeIn as a noteworthy competitor. LogMeIn’s Bold360 Rapid Response FAQ Web Widget helps businesses manage COVID-19-related questions from customers and employees.

“The only way these companies are going to move up the ladder is by consolidating themselves and maybe rolling up some smaller players into something a little bigger,” Arnold said. “But that’s kind of the norm for how any of these markets would go. I don’t foresee any big, big mergers, but what could change would be some new, big players jump into the space who really haven’t been there yet and who still see an opportunity here.”


Arnold cited Metaswitch as a successful provider. With Metaswitch’s MaX portfolio, providers can launch mobile native applications tailored to consumers and business users. Features include network-quality voice, multiple identities and a native dialer user experience for business voice, messaging and collaboration.

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Arnold, Babich, Castanon and McBain cited Microsoft as a leader in UCaaS. Microsoft Teams is a newer player that is garnering a lot of interest, Babich said.

Castanon said Microsoft is leveraging its leadership position with AI and building synergies with its productivity suite.

“Integration with applications such as productivity software (Office 365, GSuite), CRM and ERP systems are now more critical than ever,” Babich said. “With most of our workers remote, UCaaS providers that haven’t figured out the integration piece, including the powerful Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, will be left behind.”

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Arnold, Castanon and McBain cited Mitel among the most successful providers.

“Mitel recently announced its work with AWS on a new video service, leveraging the Amazon Chime SDK to expand the capabilities in its portfolio with a cloud-based video experience,” Castanon said. “The new service shows how the company is developing its portfolio strategy to make everything cloud-capable, leveraging cloud partners such as AWS.”

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Nextiva remains a cutting-edge provider, according to Arnold and McBain. U.S. News & World Report’s 360 Reviews team named Nextiva the Best Business Phone Service of 2020.

“Unified communications provides real-time collaboration capabilities that enable employees to meet, message and share content, which accelerates decision making and boosts worker productivity,” McBain said. “Today, more than 60% of global telecom decision makers are planning to implement, are implementing or are expanding their use of UC. Like other markets, UC is evolving toward more integrated software suites coupled with migration paths to subscription services.”

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Arnold cited PGi as a successful provider. Its latest GlobalMeet capabilities include enhanced audio with Dolby Voice and a redesigned iOS app. There is also new local number access and a bookings portal for customers to schedule large events. The upgrades and enhancements are designed to help people, teams and enterprises connect around the world.

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Arnold, Castanon and McBain said RingCentral continues to be a provider worth watching.

“From both the commercial and product angles, RingCentral is setting the stage for a big year in 2020,” Castanon said. “It recently launched RingCentral Video (RCV), and its strategic partnership with Avaya should further add to the market momentum it has gained in the past three years.”

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Arnold and Castanon agreed Slack is a successful provider. Slack is a good example of nontraditional competitors that have become “serious contenders and a looming threat” for UCaaS vendors, Castanon said.

“Cutting-edge UCaaS providers are now being defined by their ability to successfully and seamlessly integrate with client applications,” Babich said. “We should add that new contact center feature development should be included in the evaluation of cutting-edge providers.”

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Tango-Networks-logo-small-300x75.pngTango Networks

Tango Networks‘ Mobile-X allows organizations to securely connect their UC systems and business applications with mobile devices over any mobile network, Castanon said.

“The integration at the network level enables organizations to convert mobile devices into a mobile endpoint on their UC networks, allowing them to manage mobile services and enable UC features on their employees’ devices, including enabling control from the mobile phone’s native dialer and phone number,” he said.

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Arnold and Castanon said Vonage is a formidable player in UCaaS. Vonage is expanding its AI game with speech-enabled capabilities from its acquisition, Castanon said.

This month, Vonage launched new capabilities to its portfolio of Vonage APIs via the Verify API. It allows application developers to protect against fraudulent sign-ups by deploying two factor authentication (2FA) over messaging and voice channels.

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Wazo is an emerging provider with an interesting approach to programmable communications, Catanon said. The Wazo platform delivers programmable and adaptable cloud-native and API-centric solutions for UCaaS, CCaaS and CPaaS that can be deployed and massively scaled on bare metal, virtual machines or containers, he said.

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Zoom has been garnering lots of bad press lately for security and privacy issues. However, it added more users in the first quarter than all of 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zoom has become a serious contender and looming threat for UCaaS vendors, Castanon said.

Other Notable Providers

This list by no means encompasses all noteworthy providers. Others cited by the experts include 3CX, Evolve IP, Masergy, NTT, Orange Business Services, Star2Star, Tata, Unify, Verizon, Vodafone, Wildix and Windstream.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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