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Unified comms growth slowing but still well above pre-pandemic levels

Research from Context paints a picture of a market that has seen serious increases in demand over the course of the coronavirus pandemic

The unified communications (UC) market is starting to slow down after a period of stellar growth that has seen some product categories gain triple digit growth over the course of the past year.

According to figures from market watcher Context, those surfing the UC wave are still riding high, with European distribution of products up by 76% so far this year, compared to 2020.

But that growth will slow over the course of the rest of this year, particularly when compared directly to some of the coronavirus fuelled spending in the second lockdown period in 2020.

The Context analysis covers a range of UC technology, including collaboration headsets, cameras, speakers, microphones, room systems, hubs, IP phones and display systems.

With home working continuing to be a feature, the sales of those products has continued to hold firm. Students at many higher educational facilities have also been forced to study from home and have had to invest in technology to support that motion. As a result, unit sales so far this year  have been 111% above 2019 levels, and revenues are up by 103% compared to that pre-pandemic year.

Unit sales in the first quarter of 2021 grew 74% year on year (YoY), coming in at 5.4 million, while in the first two months of the second quarter, that figure stood at 75% YoY and 2.5 million units.

Looking ahead, the chances are that the growth levels will come down and hit more modest levels as life starts to move slowly towards a more normal footing.

“Vendors have given feedback that demand is tailing off, especially for headsets and cameras, while back orders are being fulfilled. This may suggest that the UC market is returning to more ‘normal’ levels in the near future,” said Sam Naman, research and business development manager at Context.

“However, this very much depends on the circumstances in each country across the region. This includes how quickly lockdowns are eased and workers are encouraged back to the office, as well as whether there are any government schemes to spur IT purchases, as in the UK,” he added.

Context figures show that France is the country that has seen the strongest growth levels for UC products over the course of the year so far. Switzerland and Germany had enjoyed first-quarter levels of more than 100%, but had since dropped back over the months of April and May.

The channel has been reacting to this growth. Earlier in July, Mitel expanded its partnership with BT to deliver a unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offering for its business customers.

Both firms have been working together for a while but have recognised the way the market is moving, and so have increased the options for users looking to get UCaaS.

“Businesses are continuing to adopt highly flexible ways of working, and many of our customers are looking further ahead to their longer-term digital transformation goals,” said Francesca Lee, commercial director of BT’s Enterprise unit. “We’re at the forefront of offering converged digital solutions for business customers to embrace hybrid working and our partnership with Mitel supports our position.”

Richard Roberts, Mitel’s vice-president of UK&I and Northern Europe, said that there was no turning back the communication changes that had been accelerated by the pandemic: “With these new cloud offerings, Mitel and BT can truly support companies in navigating workplace shifts without compromising business goals by providing a smooth migration to a customer’s cloud of choice at the pace that’s right for their organisation.”

Read more on Unified Communications (UC) Services