While telephony is, of course, a core component of any business communications system, one of the biggest drivers for UC adoption to date has been the promise of high resolution video communications. With high definition video playing an increasingly important role in corporate UC projects, the issue of network capacity takes centre stage.
“There are more than 2 million Aussies with less than a 2Mbps broadband connection; those users frankly can’t join a high definition video call,” says Microsoft’s Cohen. “UC is quite mature. At the moment it is waiting for the network.”
Graham Williams, CEO of Australian Cisco partner and UC specialists, iVision, feels that the NBN will act as a catalyst for greater UC deployment in Australia.
“The NBN is helping to create certainty around UC deployments in Australia,” he says. “Higher bandwidth availability, reach and better pricing is going to make the [ UC ] market more competitive.”
iVision recently completed a detailed survey of its existing clients' experiences and future plans around UC, reporting that most had realised tangible benefits and were therefore keen to make further investments in the technology, especially around video conferencing.
Cisco predicts that by 2014, some 90 per cent of all network traffic will be video.
According to Cisco chief technology officer for Australia and New Zealand, Kevin Bloch, organisations will need more than just bandwidth to manage the transition.
“To support 1080p video on the fly you need decent software as well as hardware,” he says, stressing that organisations will need “a richness of intelligence” to handle high resolution video content.
In the early days of UC deployment it was accepted that key to a successful solution were detailed session initiated protocol (SIP) libraries in order for people to be tracked and contacted over the network.
However, in another, albeit subtle, example of how the cloud is influencing UC, this function is increasingly expected to be provided by social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
Over the next few years, UC solutions will inevitably become increasingly commoditised, predicts Gartner’s Johnson.
“Most big companies are scared because they’ve spent capex, and here’s the big names offering to do this as opex for cheap,” he says.
Fonality’s Englaro agrees, noting that many organisations are now beginning to view instant messaging (IM), of the kind which is freely available via services such as Yahoo!, Windows Live, Google Talk and Skype, as a core component of their overall UC strategy.
“We are starting to see the value of IM in the corporate environment, whereby the technology is actually ‘endorsed’, rather than merely ‘tolerated’,” he says, adding that “IM and presence in particular are emerging as two of the most salient parts of UC”.
And the harsh reality for organisations that have invested heavily in upgrading their PBX and other communication systems, is that this stuff is virtually free.
“The piece of plastic on your desktop will probably one day go away altogether,” Englaro predicts. “It’s certainly the iVision chief executive officer, Graham Williams direction we see things going.”