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Global UCaaS market set for over 130 million users by 2028

Study from specialist comms research and consulting firm finds growth in UCaaS market continues apace, but price pressures are driving interest in value-added services

The post-pandemic environment has seen unified communications as a service (UCaaS) transform from the provision of simple collaboration services to becoming the bedrock of hybrid workplace communications, supporting meetings, calls, and messaging and customer experience systems, and as UCaaS expands in capability, its global user base is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% over the next five years to over 131 million users, according to research by Cavell.

The analyst’s set of 2024 Cloud comms market reports surveyed over 100 service providers across the UK, Europe and US. Among the key findings were that the trend of convergence is also being accelerated by the increasing overlap between the communications, IT and productivity sectors enabled by collaboration services such as Microsoft Teams.

Modern collaboration solutions now offer capabilities that would have previously fallen into different areas of technology,” said Cavell director of research services Dominic Black.

“Now, as these solutions become more popular globally, partners who traditionally would have focused on IT services are encountering established communication partners and vice versa.”

The research showed that the collaboration platform continued to grow in importance in the enterprise segment, with a significant portion of the market enabling voice services in Microsoft Teams. 

Mobile UCaaS services were found to be growing in importance, now accounting for over 15% of the market. However, the total available market is reducing because the same number of on-premise private branch exchange (PBX) users are not moving to become cloud PBX users. Instead, many enterprises are putting some or all of their employees on collaboration-only licenses without an external public switched telephone network functionality.

Other key findings included just more than three in five providers diversifying their portfolio to ensure the resilience and adaptability of their telecommunications business. Almost half (48%) were building artificial intelligence capabilities into their products to drive cost reduction in operators’ businesses.

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Cavell also found a marketplace where fundamental practices and dynamics were changing. It noted a reduction in both margin and revenue streams relating to traditional cloud communication and UCaaS services for more than 36 months now. This has been acknowledged by more than 40% of respondents in the research who have recognised a decrease in UCaaS revenue.

“Historically, providers won new users by migrating from on-premise solutions,” said Black. “However, as the market has matured, this has changed, as there are fewer on-premise deployments to migrate. This will drive more competition and the need for providers to differentiate whilst also potentially starting pricing consolidation.

“Indeed, we have seen from our research that the proportion of customers being won from a competitor’s UCaaS solutions has been increasing steadily in the last few quarters,” he said.

“Our latest research shows that nearly half (49%) of cloud communications providers have won the majority of their customers from competitors, which is the first time this figure has matched the percentage won by migrating from on-premise solutions. [Microsoft Teams] Operator Connect is growing in importance, but direct routing is still the most adopted solution at the moment – although this is going to change in the future. Teams Phone Mobile is still in its infancy in many markets, with only a few operators having launched services.”

At its recently held Summit Europe in London, Cavell noted that there were a number of partner and channel opportunities for services sold alongside UCaaS. The top five of these were IT consulting services; network security; connectivity; endpoint security; and Microsoft services. Noting that supporting customer experience (CX) was now much more than just the contact centre, UCaaS was found to be one of the key communication systems – along with PBX and collaboration – that could support a true CX environment.

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