Current Trends in Unified Communications

I’ve been in this industry longer than I care to admit.  I was working at Northern Telecom in the 1980’s when we announced something called “The Digital World.”   Not to be confused with the IP-PBX which came years later, this was the transformation away from analog telephony to digital telephones and ISDN.   Speaking of the IP-PBX, I was there when it was announced, too.  The same goes for the rise and fall of the ATM PBX (a real disaster), Switched-56, token ring, and dial-up Internet.  In other words, I’ve seen a lot of big ideas come and eventually be replaced by something even bigger.  Since this is a SIP blog I would like to focus on the current trends in unified communications and how that world is evolving.

  1. The Evolution of Unified Communications.  The way we communicate is in a huge state of flux.  No longer is the telephone the center of our communications universe.    I probably spend more time typing instant messages than I do talking.  Video has become a much larger part of my day.  It’s impossible to think of not being able to see my coworkers presence or me not advertising mine.  I don’t remember telephone numbers because I can click-to-call from just about anywhere.
  2. Fixed-line PBX to Mobile Communications.  My iPhone has become one of my prime business communications devices.   Not only do I access my corporate email with my smart phone, but I use it for IM, presence, and SIP telephony.  I am no longer tethered to a desk, a desk phone, or my PC.  Work is what I do and not where I go.  It wasn’t that long ago that a phone number was intimately connected to a physical telephone.  With SIP mobility, I can move that number to any device at any time.  Better yet, I can move it to multiple devices at the same time.
  3. Secure Access.  My company allows that iPhone into their network, but they require that I do it securely.  I use Mobile Iron to prevent my email and calendars from being compromised.  My SIP traffic passes through a Session Border Controller.  Additionally, I secure my SIP signaling with TLS and encrypt my media with SRTP.  My company is willing to permit me to take my work on the road as long as they are guaranteed that the safety of their network and intellectual property has been protected from those who would use it improperly.
  4. Brower-based Communications.  WebRTC will change communications even further.  Rather than downloading an application to my device (PC, tablet, smart phone, etc.), WebRTC allows me to use a standard web browser for all my communications needs.  While WebRTC is still in the early adopters phase, I expect that in the next few years it will become huge.
  5. Premise-based Services to Cloud Services.   This one goes hand in hand with WebRTC and the movement away from hard devices and soft clients.  Enterprises have already begun moving many of their major business applications to a hosted model and unified communications is the next big service to tackle. Very few companies will want to be in the business of providing communications to their employees if the same level of service they get today can be accessed from the cloud.

I expect that if I stay in this industry for a while longer this list of five will someday go the way of token ring and dial-up Internet, but for the next few years they will dominate the landscape of unified communications.  I bet you are already seeing some of the effects in your day to day life.  Exciting times if you ask me.


  1. Exciting times indeed. I too have seen some big ideas come and go. Circuit switch PSTN and TDM switches and good ol’ ATM at least some of ATM lives on in xDSL broadband and the switching concepts in MPLS. But packet base voice still feels kind of odd compared to growing up with TXE4a and Strowger…..


    1. Thanks, Neil. It all makes me feel a little old and reminds me of my dad. He started working with electronics on a WWII naval ship in the day of the tube. He went through transistors and integrated circuits before retiring at the dawn of the computer age. He decided that he had learned enough and was ready for someone else to step in.

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