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The voice of the future

Georgina Williams, Director of Voice and Collaboration at BT Enterprise

Over the last few years, the number of fixed telephone lines used by businesses and homes across the UK has rapidly declined. Fixed phone lines used to be a key way of communicating, and they were found in every business and home – but they’re now being replaced by other methods of communication that are more flexible and cheaper.

 

Voice communication is constantly evolving, and  now businesses rely on a number of different channels. For instance, we now use mobile phone calls along with chat and video platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack -  a trend which has deepened because of the pandemic.

 

When businesses started working from home, the use of video conferencing software skyrocketed - at its peak, Zoom recorded 300 million daily participants using the platform for virtual meetings. At the moment, advice around returning to the office is constantly changing – and lots of organisations plan to carry on working remotely, at least for the immediate future. It’s no surprise then that customers will be looking towards CPs to help them support this new way of communicating.

 

Digital solutions for the future

With the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) switch-off fast approaching in 2025, it’s critical for businesses that they start thinking digitally. This transformative step will see traditional telephony, which uses copper telephone lines and analogue signalling, replaced. As such, CPs should encourage customers to start thinking about their all-IP future, which can mean building in new capabilities, such as Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VolP).

 

VoIP is a phone system hosted in the cloud. It covers a variety of telephony technologies, and transfers digital packets of audio down digital connection lines. The market is rapidly expanding, as app providers like Microsoft and Zoom are now entering telephony, along with the more traditional communications players.  With a VoIP system, companies can  use their bandwidth allowance – meaning they don’t needseparate packages for calls and minutes. It also opens up the opportunity for businesses to use Unified Communications (UC) tools.

 

VolP solutions operate over a single digital connection, which makes them really easy to install. They’re also more efficient as you no longer need multiple connections from different providers. Also, as they’re hosted in the cloud, the technology is agile and can be adapted to anychanges that happen in the future. 

 

Going digital provides customers with a range of options, as not being tethered to a fixed connection, i.e. ‘the curly cord’, encourages flexibility. It allows them to choose a phone system and device setup which suits their needs. This is particularly important now that most employees are working remotely. Businesses need to be able to access communications services, make changes and review employee usage data across a variety of devices, including laptops, mobile phones or fixed phones. This is crucial to keep things moving.

 

As more of the business becomes digitised, organisations will be able to integrate further services together. For example, linking apps with CRM systems, or shared calendars to schedule meetings which will make it easier to track interactions with customers.

 

Enhanced connectivity

Just as a mobile phone is only as good as its network, a VolP solution must be underpinned by strong, reliable connectivity too. CPs must make sure they’re guiding customers to use a network that provides plenty of bandwidth, consistent connectivity and a high quality of service, particularly for video users.

 

Another benefit of partnering with a good service provider is that it further enhances the benefits of digital platforms - enabling customers to ‘break out’ from calls on an application to facilitate calls in and out to mobile phones, PSTN numbers or alternative IP applications, for example.

 

At BT Wholesale, we have a wide access solution portfolio that enables CPs to provide customers with a variety of single line solutions, so that they can choose the one that best suits their needs and technology stack. 

 

For example, Single order Generic Ethernet access (SoGEA) enables businesses to access broadband without a phone line, while fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) provides enhanced connectivity without the copper element. These are just two technologies that sit in each other’s footprint,bringing connectivity to most of the country, and they’re a good starting point for businesses to ensure that they are well positioned to manage the move to all-IP and access new voice technologies.

 

Taking the plunge

For all businesses, getting to grips with digital voice solutions is critical, as moving away from a fixed telephone line becomes a reality. CPs must educate customers that the transition to all-IP is coming and it’s time to think strategically about their digital communication needs. The lockdown forced businesses’ hands, but ensuring that new remote working and collaboration tools are powered by reliable connectivity is the next step and will prepare businesses for the future.

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