Windstream is the latest company to offer cloud-based unified communications services.
The Arkansas-based network communications vendor, which partners with a range of other companies such as Cisco Systems, Avaya, Mitel and ShoreTel, is rolling out its suite of unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) solutions aimed at enterprises and midsize businesses.
The services are hosted in Windstream data centers around the country and take advantage of the company's Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networking to improve performance and avoid traffic bottlenecks. The result is a UCaaS offering that meets the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce, according to Matt Preschern, senior vice president and enterprise chief marketing officer at Windstream.
"Our UC solution helps businesses create a more collaborative and connected workforce, providing anytime, anywhere access to a range of UC options, using a single, consistent interface," Preschern said in a statement. "Our business customers are seeking solutions that offer business continuity, security and increased productivity."
Windstream joins a crowded and highly competitive space, with essentially every UC vendor—from Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent to Microsoft, Avaya, ShoreTel and Mitel—bringing their offerings to the cloud, and with good reason. Company officials pointed to numbers from market research firm Frost and Sullivan that indicate the North American hosted IP telephony and unified communications and collaboration market—which includes UCaaS—will hit $13.2 billion by 2020, growing at an annual rate of 28.4 percent.
The UC market has been around for years but, while growing, has not been as widely embraced as some analysts had predicted. However, certain trends—including the cloud, greater worker mobility, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and the increasing use of video—are helping to ramp up interest in UC, according to analysts.
Windstream's hosted UC includes integrated voice, multimedia, unified messaging, mobility, desktop video, analog or voice-over-IP (VoIP) lines, and presence management. It also integrates with customers' existing systems and offers a pay-as-you-go model. It was developed in 2013 and has seen solid performance in beta testing, according to company officials.