broadband, video, mobile, cloud, networking
Microsoft, Cisco, set to win as PBX world goes UC

Cloud, mobility, push firms to unify their comm. platform and make it accessible from anywhere

The world over, PBXs are being replaced by servers running Unified Communications (UC) software, giving a boost to Cisco and Microsoft at the expense of other established companies like Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Mitel, NEC, Shoretel, and Siemens. While Avaya still leads the overall telephony market, Cisco leads in IP telephony, while Microsoft has been steadily gaining share in the UC area with its Microsoft Lync servers and software.

India is a growing player in the global UC market. Over the past four years India-based firms spent over $1.5 billion on UC solutions, and projections are for this market to growth annually by 11%.

The decline of proprietary PBXs began a few years ago with the emergence of open standards and protocols, as well as open source technology from companies like Asterisk, which gave customers increasing control. Now with the advent of the Cloud and mobility, companies are spending millions to unify their telecom platforms to cover all modes - voice, text, video and multimedia - and make such platforms (which may be on the Cloud, in the office, or both) accessible via wireline or mobile devices using APIs.

Microsoft is the player generally feared in the market. It has used Audiocode's One Voice to simplify the voice-enablement of Microsoft Lync, bought up Skype and integrated Skype's platform with the overall Lync offering. The result: many top corporate CIOs see Lync as providing a simpler and lower-cost environment to operate, as compared to their previous voice solution. Lync has also accelerated the trend to SIP trunking, which enables companies to physically unify their communication links.

According to an analyst writing at nojitter's website, "Cisco has spent countless hours trying to prove why Cisco UC is better than Lync. Cisco UC is more mature, has higher voice quality and, in many cases is even cheaper. But Microsoft buyers don't really care. A ZK Research-Tech Target survey asked the question "What are the primary reasons for deploying Lync?" and the top response was that "It integrates into Share Point, Exchange and Office". The number two response was"We are predominantly a Microsoft shop".

Survey respondents said their biggest concern about Lync was that it had too many hidden costs. Unlike Cisco, Microsoft went to market with free Lync licenses, but users ended up paying for the hardware to run it on, including Microsoft Lync servers, IP phones and gateways to legacy systems and PSTN lines. If you're not using the latest version of Exchange, Microsoft will force you to upgrade, unlike Cisco. "But companies can get Lync onto a desktop for no money and use it for chat and presence. Then slowly over time, why not use it for mobile voice or desktop voice? But there are a ton of hidden costs. It's like death by 1,000 cuts"

Based on reports in and

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# India's international & domestic bandwidth business
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