SMBs Call out to Hosted Service Providers for VoIP


A newly released study from Access Market International (AMI) pretty much settles the question of how much small businesses want to be involved in the provisioning of VoIP and related services: as little as possible.


The study shows that the SMB VoIP hosted services market will reach $416 million this year. That may not seem like so much, but it dwarfs the $165 million the category generated in 2005. The cumulative growth rate will be 56.9 percent between 2005 and 2010, with companies with fewer than 100 employees enjoying a growth rate of 69 percent during that period.


The numbers are impressive, but certainly easy to understand. Indeed, this is the second recent survey -- In-Stat published the other -- that suggests small businesses will be a key for hosted services. The bottom line is pretty obvious: Not many small operations have the knowledge or desire to monkey around with Internet telephone services. Even the cable industry is getting into the act. Earlier this year, the biggest Canadian cable operator has partnered with Mitel on a hosted product aimed at SMBs.


We usually don't throw too many numbers around, but these are worth looking at: Spending by SMBs on hosted services will increase from $164.9 million in 2005 to $1.56 billion by 2010. SMB seats served by hosted VoIP will rise from 393,967 last year to about 3 million by 2010, which represents an increase from 2 percent to more than 7 percent of the market.


It's unclear if the AMI estimates factored in the move by Microsoft to integrate VoIP and Office applications in the new Office Communications server. This CRN story makes the point that this is good news for value-added resellers (VARs), who now will have a voice application to push. It can be assumed, however, that it figures to drive hosted services in general.


As Microsoft and other companies move toward complex unified communications offerings, it seems that the expertise offered by hosted service providers will increasingly be in demand.