The traditional telephone exchange or PBX has had its day. This much is clear from research carried out by Beltug in collaboration with the major telecoms operators, including Orange. IP exchanges (IP PBX) and the tailor-made FMU approach are now appearing.
Only 31% of Belgian companies are still using a traditional analogue telephone exchange or PBX and want maintain it. One in four companies would like to replace their “old” telephone exchange within the next 12 to 24 months. 28% of Belgian companies have already done so.
Why a virtual exchange?
What are those telephone exchanges being replaced with? In most cases (73%) the traditional telephone exchange is replaced with a so-called IP PBX, which is based on IP telephony, thus better combining voice and data. However, the Beltug survey has shown there are other alternatives. For example, 6% of companies are opting for voice telephony combined with unified communications, such as Skype for Business from Microsoft.
Meanwhile, 5% are choosing a “virtual” PBX, in which the main functions of a telephone exchange are offered as a service. As a result, companies no longer have a telephone exchange on their premises; they use this service via the network instead. Lieven Vaes, Head of B2B Marketing at Orange Belgium states: “We have noted that this type of virtual PBX is particularly suitable for smaller companies.” He is referring to the Mobiline solution, an Orange product that is doing very nicely indeed in the SME market. Lieven Vaes explains: “The biggest advantage of a virtual exchange is that you can use the main functionalities of an exchange, without the company having to own a PBX.” He specifically points to one contact number for all staff, short code numbers, voicemail, welcome messages, automatic call forwarding and setting up conference calls.
Big companies often make different choices
Another option is the FMU concept or Fixed Mobile Unification. This is when companies use their own IP exchange, whilst ensuring that all personnel can be reached on one number for all their devices, usually the landline number. The Beltug survey clearly illustrates this concept has great potential: 16% of companies have already implemented the concept, and almost 70% of companies are considering it. Lieven Vaes from Orange states: “We are noticing this trend especially among the bigger companies. In this scenario the company’s own telephone exchange is linked to a mobile extension.”
Lieven Vaes also mentions the Orange project that is underway in association with Irisnet, the Brussels telecoms agency, for FMU, a bespoke product developed for Orange. In this case, the Orange mobile network has been combined with the Irisnet solution for IP telephony. The biggest advantage of this system is that users can choose to be called on their landline number via their landline phone, their mobile, or softphone (via a software program), or even simultaneously on all three. Lieven Vaes states: “The choice is entirely up to the customer.”
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Source: BELTUG, Belgian Association of Digital Technology Leaders, ICT Market Trends Survey, 2016