Table of Contents
Enhancing Audio with a Visual Component Boost Adoption
This study provides an in-depth analysis of the North American audio conferencing services market. The mature North American audio conferencing services market has now become the foundation of more complex unified communications and collaboration services offerings. As part of this analysis, Frost & Sullivan has identified market drivers, restraints, competitive issues, and growth patterns within the North American audio conferencing service market. Through extensive primary and secondary research, this analysis provides audio conferencing service providers with a detailed look at the dynamics of a mature, but evolving market.
• The mature North American audio conferencing services market has now become the foundation of more complex unified communications and collaboration services offerings.
• Audio conferencing minutes consumption continues to grow driven by the rise of the virtual organization and the need for remote collaboration and increasing customer recognition of the cost savings that can be realized through the use of conferencing technologies.
• The market has been seeing increasing amalgamation and integration of audio conferencing solutions with web and video conferencing and other collaboration products.
• The notion of a “multimedia minute” has gained broad appeal as businesses increasingly use audio along with web and video tools. Going forward, it may not be feasible to continue tracking the individual conferencing services markets separately.
• Today, almost all audio conferencing service providers have brought the visual and collaborative component to their existing solutions either by partnering with third-party web and video conferencing providers or by offering the technology themselves.
• During the last three to four years, the integration of audio conferencing services with web and video conferencing solutions has helped to boost total audio conferencing minutes consumption while maintaining audio conferencing revenue erosion relatively low or flat.
• In spite of positive factors, the North American audio conferencing services market will continue to gradually shrink in terms of revenue as competition intensifies and prices come down.
• In terms of competition, the North American audio conferencing services market is still very dynamic with market participants launching new value-added features, deploying new transport infrastructure, engaging in mergers and acquisitions, and introducing new pricing models.
• Market saturation and declining revenues are forcing participants to take market share away from each other in order to grow.
• Attended and unattended audio conferencing services are experiencing different growth trends, with operator-attended calls continuing to decline in favor of the unattended self-service model.
• Many businesses choose unattended audio conferencing services because they are cheaper and more convenient than operator-assisted events.
• While there will still be room for white-glove attended audio conferencing services in the future, more customers will be moving to unattended audio conferencing services for their larger event-based calls.
• Increased budgetary constraints at both the enterprise and small and medium-sized (SMB) level have caused audio conferencing users to budget their audio conferencing expenses ahead of time rather than pay per usage.
• In order to increase revenue, audio conferencing service providers have been restructuring their pricing models using bundled pricing as an alternative to the traditional price-per-minute option.
• Today, almost all North American audio conferencing service providers offer subscription audio conferencing services, both standalone audio as well as integrated audio/web/video conferencing bundles.
• InterCall continues to be the market share leader in the North American audio conferencing services market, followed by AT&T and Verizon Business.
• While Frost & Sullivan expects the top three providers to continue to lead the market within the coming years of the forecast period, their current market shares will be increasingly challenged as other competitive vendors emerge with new features and price offerings.
• As part of this analysis, Frost & Sullivan has identified market drivers, restraints, competitive issues, and growth patterns within the North American audio conferencing service market.
• Through extensive primary and secondary research, this analysis provides audio conferencing service providers with a detailed look at the dynamics of a mature, but evolving market.
1. Audio only no longer offers a compelling value proposition. Today, it is about a multi-sensory meeting continuum.
2. Audio conferencing minutes will continue to increase, but revenues will decline due to strong price pressures and commoditization.
3. Market saturation forces providers to compete fiercely to take customers away from others in order to grow.
4. More comprehensive conferencing and collaboration bundles are needed to grow and differentiate in a mature market.
5. Growth opportunities come from value-added features; integration with web/video; and the move to new transport infrastructures.
Market Overview—Market Definitions
Geographic coverage: North America
Study period: 2011–2018
Base year: 2012
Forecast period: 2013–2018
Monetary unit: U.S. Dollars
Conversion rate: CAD1.00 = USDX
Frost & Sullivan defines audio conferencing as a communications session among three or more users who are geographically dispersed.
An audio conferencing service is provided by connecting two or more sites via a bridge service, using the transmission of voice signals across analog, digital or Internet protocol (IP) lines.
Sites can connect to the audio conferencing session via phone, via dialing-in or a dialing-out service using the public switched telephone network (PSTN), or via the personal computer (PC) using a voice over IP (VoIP) connection.
In the dialing-in mode, users of an audio conferencing service are provided with toll-free or toll numbers and an access code to join the conference. The dialing-out service prompts users to type or enter their number on the PC so the service can call them on their phone and connect them to the conference.
PC communications require users to press on an Internet link to join the conference via the PC sound card, PC speakers, and PC microphones.
The overall audio conferencing services market is divided into two broad categories—attended (operator-assisted) and unattended (self-service) audio conferencing services.
Attended audio conferencing is usually used for high-profile conferencing events such as investor relations calls or calls with a large number of participants where heightened levels of formality, control, and service quality are required.
The primary differentiators of attended audio conferencing services are: operator monitoring, operator-managed features, and premium pricing.
In an attended audio conferencing service mode, the service provider may also have the capability to e-mail invitations to the potential participants, greet the participants, and validate their authenticity, mediate the conference session, give alerts on who is entering or leaving the conference, and offer and charge for call recording, digital replay and transcription.
Unattended audio conferencing service calls are most of the time reservationless/ad-hoc meetings. These services could also take the form of scheduled/unattended meet-me calls.
In an unattended audio conferencing mode, prior reservations are not needed and the party setting up the call has a pre-assigned dial-in number to use.
Unattended or reservationless conference size can range from two to X participants but most companies offer larger reservationless conference sizes as demanded by customers.
Usually, in an unattended audio conferencing service, no operator assistance or intervention is required. In spite of this, it is usually possible to ask for operator assistance during a call.
Finally, many reservationless audio products also have a complement of a web tool, integrated or standalone, that further enhances the audio product.
• The study covers the hosted portion of the audio conferencing service space.
• The study does not cover minutes or revenues related to on-premises audio conferencing solutions, such as audio conferencing bridges or on-premises unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions.
• Furthermore, the study does not include basic three-way calling features provided by service providers or on-premises private branch exchanges (PBXs).
• The study includes wholesale PSTN and IP-based networks minutes and revenues but not resale minutes or revenues.
• Audio conferencing minutes and revenue taken into account include standalone audio conferencing services (no web integration) and integrated toll and toll-free services into a web conferencing system (giving web conferencing attendees options to communicate using traditional phone lines)
• While network-based voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) audio conferencing services are included, the study does not include minutes and revenues related to built-in personal computer (PC) communications, whereby the attendee uses the mic and speakers for PC-to-PC VoIP for audio conferencing.
• Revenue figures include chairperson charges.
• Long-distance revenues for conference calls are not broken out separately.
• Free conferencing services are not included as a sub-segment of the minutes data. Free services are considered a substitute for fee-based services.
• Audio conferencing services targeted at individual consumers rather than business users are also excluded from the study.
• Finally, any revenues associated with web conferencing functionalities such as slide presentation, file sharing, white boarding, and broadcasting are not included in this study.
Key Questions This Study Will Answer
Is the market growing and how long will it continue to grow?
What are the key factors that will drive growth? Are there significant restraints that will hold the market back?
How is the market performing for each of its market regions?
What are the latest pricing trends in the market?
How is the competitive landscape evolving and who are the top competitors?
How will the structure of the market change with time?
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