Home users and businesses worldwide are rapidly adopting IP phone platforms as the de facto standard in telephony. This is due in no small part to the substantial cost advantage it can provide when compared with ‘traditional’ packet switching telephone network (PSTN) services.
In considering VoIP, however, businesses and end users are confronted with a wide variety of providers: Tier 1 providers who maintain the networks and infrastructure; Tier 2 providers who maintain routes on those networks; and Tier 3 providers who lease network bandwidth from Tier 1 and 2 providers. As with any selection process, the key here is relevance and fit.
Established voip providers such as IDT Express and other similar wholesalers package services from a variety of other providers worldwide in order to offer bulk VoIP minutes. However, they do so in quantities appropriate for the needs of other providers and larger enterprises rather than those of individual end users.
If we equate ‘popularity’ with user volumes, it becomes clear that most enterprises and individuals are looking for ‘providers’ defined in the same way as most service providers: companies providing packages to end users, from individuals to businesses of all sizes. Here, then, are some of the most popular end providers in today’s VoIP market.
Skype and Google Hangouts
When we talk about VoIP, many people will immediately think of Skype. While Skype and its closest competitor, Google Hangouts, are far removed from enterprise or even many home VoIP systems, they are without a doubt the most popular providers worldwide.
For individuals, both of these services offer competitive pricing on calls to IP or landline numbers worldwide without needing to invest in infrastructure. They are readily accessible in the form of apps on the majority of mainstream devices.
This means, however, that they are not really appropriate for any but the smallest businesses. Instead of dedicated networks and routes, both use a ‘best effort’ approach, which can result in poor quality calls. Since they are device applications, they are not scalable and cannot be integrated with other applications.
Both Skype and Google Hangouts offer ‘business’ packages, but in reality, only the smallest businesses should be considering these; ‘real’ telephony services may be more expensive up-front, but their performance and longevity should more than justify the initial investment as the business grows.
Pioneer Business Systems
Based in Dorset, Pioneer Business Systems was a ‘Customer Focus and Service’ finalist in the National Business Awards, making it a serious contender for any enterprise VoIP installation.
Pioneer Business Systems focuses on providing enterprise-level hosted VoIP services to businesses of any size. It offers anything from a simple hosted service to solutions which include the physical hardware, with installation plans designed to minimise business disruption. Pioneer’s major selling points include a Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) system, which seamlessly integrates the IP telephony system with existing customer information and CRM systems to improve call handling abilities.
Pioneer has a clear focus on customer relationships, providing a 24/7 UK-based call centre and engineering support to quickly resolve any issues that may arise.
Long established as the UK’s principal PSTN and broadband infrastructure provider, BT is so confident in its VoIP systems that it has a stated end-of-life date of 2025 for its PSTN networks.
BT offers IP phone packages appropriate for all sizes of business, in addition to home services which include plug-and-play BT Cloud Phones for home and small enterprises; BT Cloud Voice services for small and medium businesses; and BT One Phone Office for larger enterprises and call centres.
BT is the only provider on this list which owns and manages the underlying infrastructure. This can be a positive in the sense that end-to-end ownership obviates the need to work with third parties in addressing any technical issues. However, the sheer scale of the organisation can leave customers feeling as though they are ‘one of many’ and any bespoke tailoring options tend to be limited.
That said, BT telephony services are widely held to be cost-effective and can be expertly implemented with ease.
Canadian telecoms company, Mitel, has existed since the 1970s and has always focused upon the delivery of cutting-edge telephony and telecommunications solutions. Since 2001, this has meant an almost exclusive emphasis on VoIP services.
Mitel is certainly a relative newcomer as a service provider, but the firm has decades of proven telephony and customer care experience to underpin its offerings. This experience is augmented with a range of software applications including several CRM and contact centre solutions In the context of some requirements, Mitel may well be the most capable provider in deploying integrated business solutions.
Mitel has a focus on providing enterprise solutions for the technically literate user, focusing on systems integration, scalability and the provision of business analytics, all on one platform. It offers private, hosted, and hybrid cloud solutions and a consistent user experience regardless as to the underlying platform.