Are the Days of Single-mode VoWLAN and DECT Phones Numbered?

With the growing hype around FMC and the continued integration of mobile phones with corporate communication networks, one would think that onsite mobility solutions are becoming an extinct species. I, personally, don’t think so. Single-mode VoWLAN and DECT devices provide productivity-enhancing mobility to individuals that do not fit the profile of potential smartphone users, and, therefore, do not compete with mobile phones for the exact same opportunity.

In the carpeted office, we expect professionals to increasingly use mobile phones connected to corporate PBX systems leveraging advanced UC clients. Such individuals are most likely users of cell phones subsidized by the company as they are expected to be able to make or receive calls anywhere, any time, in order to better serve customers, partners or internal stakeholders. Those are typically sales or marketing people or top executives. Beyond the carpeted office, maybe doctors, real-estate brokers, lawyers, technical support, and a few other professions requiring immediate and around-the-clock contact represent possible target customers for FMC solutions providing corporate communication applications on mobile devices.

Onsite mobility solutions, on the other hand, will continue to provide valuable capabilities to verticals where individuals need to communicate efficiently while on the premises, but do not need to be available for business purposes after working hours. Healthcare, retail and manufacturing continue to account for the majority of VoWLAN implementations (41%, 13% and 7%, respectively, of 2008 new users) with hospitality, education and government offering some growing opportunities. The carpeted office accounted for about 19% of all VoWLAN single-mode new users in 2008. DECT has been more successful in the carpeted office with over 40% of new users in 2008 being in this market segment.

Frost & Sullivan recently published a study, authored by my colleague Alaa Saayed, that provides an in-depth analysis of this market space. Here follows a summary of the findings:

As in the case of many other technology markets, the world enterprise DECT and VoWLAN single-mode phone market has been considerably impacted by the economic crisis. With market growth rates already showing some signs of deceleration in 2008, economic conditions in 2009 seem to be presenting even greater challenges as business customers seek to cut costs by extending the life of their existing wireless devices, curtail investment in new technologies and select the product or vendor based on pricing rather than strategic value.

Moreover, DECT and VoWLAN single-mode technologies have started to feel the pressures of other types of carpeted-office mobile devices, such as advanced smartphones with built-in enterprise FMC solutions, that, in some cases, present a compelling value proposition to IT departments seeking to provide employees with a single device offering multiple capabilities. 

Despite this challenging landscape, the world enterprise DECT and VoWLAN single-mode market is expected to gradually return to its healthy growth rates in 2011 – as more vertical industries across the world recognize the various benefits and capabilities granted by these types of on-site mobility solutions. Moreover, the potential short-term slowdown in this market may be attenuated by the fact that enterprise FMC solutions are still viewed as very nascent technologies, and enterprises wishing to avoid any possible hurdles would, in most cases, prefer the reliability of DECT devices or the maturity of single-mode handsets. It should be noted, however, that any growth may be much slower than what it could have been in a healthier economy.

In terms of handset evolution, many of the major DECT phone manufacturers have launched new advanced DECT handsets into the market. Some examples include Aastra’s new series of next-generation SIP DECT handsets (the 610d entry-level handset, the 620d business version handset, and the 630d industrial handset), Ascom’s new generation d41 and d62 IP DECT handsets and NEC-Philips’s I755 phone and advanced M155 watch phone.

On the other hand, some of the technological advancements that new DECT solutions have introduced to the market include advanced messaging and alarming systems, centralized management capabilities, location detection capabilities and central directory and presence information. Today many DECT market participants affirm that the new capabilities offered by DECT technologies equal or even surpass those offered by VoWLAN single-mode devices. Cat-iq is said to further increase the value proposition of future enterprise DECT in terms of better voice quality, Web access to applications, and lower power consumption. 

In terms of VoWLAN single-mode market evolution, most of the basic VoWLAN challenges, such as reliability, voice quality and security, have been resolved through continuous improvements and advancements in handset capabilities, adoption of wireless standards, and partnerships among device vendors, IP telephony providers and WLAN infrastructure companies.

New handsets capabilities include enhanced interfaces, additional software functions, new form factors (smartphone looking devices), improved device durability, and integration with advanced messaging, push-to-talk, and location-based features and applications – among others. Evolving wireless standards that are either being implemented or considered for future implementation include 802.11n, 802.11r, 802.11e and WPA2 security certifications. Finally, the market has witnessed the partnership of two of the major VoWLAN single-mode participants: Motorola and Vocera – that is expected to further increase the adoption and implementation of VoWLAN single-mode devices in the healthcare and retail industry.

Growth Rate Comparison

Growth Rate Comparison

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