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VoIP has evolved significantly since its early years. It began as an interesting proof-of-concept for conducting voice communications over packet-switched networks rather than the circuit-switched public telephone system. Starting in the early 2000s, it was rapidly commercialized and eventually became a centerpiece of unified communications (UC) suites. Today, VoIP applications are available on every device from deskphones to web browsers.
What should we expect for VoIP in 2018 and beyond? Let's look at four of the biggest trends worth monitoring in the new year:
Hosted and cloud-based services have made significant inroads at organizations of all kinds over the last decade, as demonstrated by the 2018 State of IT Report from Spiceworks. That survey found that budget allotments for such solutions were nearly as large as those for software, and they keep rising.
The same holds for hosted VoIP versus premise-based alternatives. Concerns about data security, net neutrality and total cost of ownership of self-managed PBXs should spur many organizations to seek the help of hosted VoIP providers capable of delivering secure, scalable and cost-effective solutions.
One of the decisive advantages of VoIP is call quality. HD voice offers a much better experience than POTS telephony, thanks to the bandwidth and speed of its underlying broadband connectivity. Quality should get an additional boost from 5G networks, which some U.S. carriers may begin to roll out this year in test runs.
5G is designed to support ultra HD video and numerous connected devices beyond just mobile phones and tablets. Accordingly, it will eventually be a boon for both VoIP and UC more broadly. However, actual consumer uptake may take a few more years due to the current absence of compatible devices.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a key focus area for many consumers and enterprise tech for years. In VoIP, AI has multiple possible use cases that should expand as carriers and technology suppliers continue to refine their offerings.
For example, AI has been trialed in the detection of network defects and the creation of self-healing networks with less downtime. AI is also useful in specialized applications such as voicemail transcription and auto attendant software, in which it can help with functions like voice recognition. AI-driven analytics engines can also provide post-VoIP call analysis to refine strategies for marketing and customer service in the future.
The transition of many essential forms of business communication to IP networks raises the stakes for data security. Hosted VoIP providers will be expected to prove their security credentials in 2018 and beyond, through the provision of specific features such as: