The new offerings, aimed at service providers, are part of a larger trend toward consolidating UC services in the cloud.
Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson are introducing separate cloud-based unified communications solutions that service providers will be able to offer as a service to their enterprise and small and midsize business (SMB) customers.
Officials with both companies said their offerings come at a time when businesses increasingly are looking to get more of their services from the cloud. As the mobile workforce grows and trends like bring-your-own-device
(BYOD) play a larger role in the enterprise, businesses are seeing an increase in demand from employees for communications solutions that enable them to collaborate from wherever they are and from whatever device they are using.
Cloud-based offerings are a way to meet that growing demand and help businesses that are struggling to find cost-effective ways of upgrading their communications environments, according Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent officials.
"Ericsson's vision of the mobile enterprise goes well beyond support for remote workers," Magnus Furustam, vice president and head of product area communication networks for the company, said in a statement. "This launch is an important step in our mobile enterprise strategy that delivers integrated cloud, connectivity and communications as a service via operators."
A wide range of unified communications (UC) vendors—from Cisco Systems and Avaya
to ShoreTel, BroadSoft
—offer or are building out cloud-based UC solutions
. In an interview last year, Rich Costello, senior research analyst of UC in IDC's Enterprise Communications Infrastructure unit, told eWEEK
that while UC is a market that should grow to almost $38 billion by 2016, it hasn't grown as quickly as some industry observers expected. The trends toward the cloud
, as well as mobility and the growing use of video, could play significant roles in the future of UC, he said.
Alcatel-Lucent on Feb. 12 unveiled a new UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) solution aimed at SMBs and also updated its offering for larger enterprises. The company's OpenTouch Office Cloud (OTOC) solution leverages the company's OmniPCX Office RCE technology
, which offers business telephony, customer service and business operations packaged in a preconfigured server.
The company already has more than 17 million users for its OmniPCX Office, and now service providers will have a solution based on the technology that they can offer SMBs as a service.
At the same time, Alcatel-Lucent is enhancing its OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud (OTEC) solution with a transformation program the company calls CPE-2-Cloud and its Voice Inbound contact center-as-a-service offering. Voice Inbound offers enterprises a virtual customer service center for everything from emergency hotlines to customer help desks to technology support.
The update comes 11 months after Alcatel-Lucent introduced OTEC. There are a range of service providers worldwide that offer OTEC, including ICON Voice Networks in the United States.
"The ability to help business adopt cloud-based services is the focus of our OpenTouch Cloud suite," Eric Penisson, general manager of the Enterprise Communications Business Division at Alcatel-Lucent, said in a statement. "Both OpenTouch Office and OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud give employees the collaborative experience they want, and have been extremely well-received by our channel partners who recognize the value our cloud-based services bring to their existing and potential customers."
Ericsson's Mobile Unified Communications offering, also announced Feb. 12, is an IMS-based (IP multimedia subsystem-based) solution that service providers can attach their own brand to. It offers high-quality voice and high-definition video conferencing services from any devices, presence features and a way for support personnel to help users via a browser, company officials said.
Customers can access these features through their own mobile phone number and can transfer them between devices without disrupting the session.
The cloud UC solution, which will be available in the third quarter, supports such technologies as Long Term Evolution (LTE)
, voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Rich Communications Services (RCS).
Ericsson's Mobile UC offering will be running in the vendor's booth at the Mobile World Congress 2014
show in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 24-27.