Unified communication is the integration of multiple communication applications into a single entity. This includes bundling of real time communication services (instant messaging, voice and IP telephony, data sharing, speech recognition, call control and video conferencing among others) with non-real time communication services (SMS, e-mail, voicemail and fax). Thus, it automates and unifies the user experience across multiple devices. It may be used for business as well as social purposes. It helps in optimizing business processes as it enables quicker execution and delivery of information, reduces latency and eliminates device and media dependency. It enables people using different media, different modes of communication and different devices to communicate with one another, anywhere and at any time. The industry encompasses different communication models such as unified messaging, transactional and informational systems, collaboration and interaction systems and other real time and non-real time systems. The global unified communication market is driven by the availability of high speed broadband and wireless connectivity networks.
The increasing adoption of bring your own devices, emergence of unified communication as a service and increasing penetration of mobile devices on a global level are the key drivers for the unified communication market. However, the high cost of initial investment in adopting such systems and lack of interoperability between multiple vendors’ platforms are expected to be challenges for the industry. The introduction of software defined data network (UCSDN) which is capable of automating the programming of a network has provided immense growth potential for the unified communication market. A recent trend is seen towards the use of this application for enterprise social networking. Evolution of new technologies that enable communication over a wider variety of end points is expected to provide a positive growth opportunity for the market over the coming years.
Unified communication can be offered via on premise or cloud-based/hosted systems. On premise systems offer greater customization and control capabilities and are easier to manage, but need a well trained staff and sufficient maintenance. This makes on-premise systems less attractive than cloud-based/hosted unified communication systems. With the rapid adoption of cloud technology, cloud-based/hosted systems have been increasingly adopted. They are faster, easier to maintain, provide seamless scaling abilities and reduce capital expenditure. The growth of cloud computing is expected to boost the market for cloud-based/hosted systems.
Enterprises account for the largest share in the global unified communication market. This may be attributed to the growing adoption of information technology in enhancing business processes and benefits such as mobility, presence and collaboration that are provided by unified communication systems. Thus they help in improving the efficiency and productivity of enterprises. Unified communication enables enterprises to have better customer engagement, connected employees and better operational agility. Government, education and healthcare are some of the other promising sectors for the growth of the unified communication market.
The North America and European unified communication market is characterized by stake presence of advanced communication infrastructure. Asia Pacific is expected to be a promising region for market growth due to increasing trend towards mobilization of enterprises. Large population base and spread of high speed data networks in regions such as China and India have led to a favorable demand for these systems in such regions.
Some of the players in the global unified communication market include Alcatel-Lucent, Avaay Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., IBM Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, NEC Corporation, Plantronics Inc., Polycom Inc., ShoreTel, Unify GmbH & Co. KG and Verizon Communications among others. Cisco dominates the market with a large number of Fortune 500 companies using Cisco’s unified communication solutions. This may be attributed to Cisco’s portfolio of solutions that provide consistent end user experience across multiple devices. The ability to host various infrastructure services and business critical collaboration capabilities make Cisco Unified Communication system popular among different end user industries.