As telcos and IT vendors increasingly fight over the VoIP market, the choices will become more confusing for the channel, according to market analyst IDC.
Indeed, distributors are split over who will grab the VoIP business, with one saying that IT players will be the losers.
According to new IDC research, systems integrators, equipment vendors and telecoms carriers now compete for the same Managed Network Services (MNS) market.
"Traditionally, organisations would have gone to a carrier for their voice/video requirements but it is not necessarily the case anymore today with IT suppliers, network integrators and equipment vendors entering the fray and building up skills to provide managed network services including VoIP," IDC Research program manager for telecommunications, Landry Fevre, said.
IDC said the MSN market would become increasingly active in Australia, growing annually by 14 per cent, to be worth $1.4 billion by 2008.
The MNS market dynamics had become more complex for carriers and IT vendors who found it difficult to move up and down the value chain by competing instead of co-operating and vying for the same business.
"The flagrant area of overlap and friction between IT vendors and telecom carriers is around convergence areas such as VoIP and IP video services," Fevre said.
For the channel, it meant confusion, as there were so many types of organisation to choose from, he said.
IT distributors told ARN they were moving into the VoIP market, but they doubted it would be easy.
Managing director of eXeed, Michael Bosnar, said he was talking with several VoIP vendors about selling their products.
IT resellers and channels, including eXeed, had much to learn about the telco space, but convergence was the future, he said.
Telco-type resellers would sell services around communications products.
"VoIP will kill the IT guys," he said. "The IT market is saturated, the profit has gone out of it, and you have to look for new avenues for long-term viability."
Ingram Micro's business manager, Rodney Thorne, said: "Telcos will start embracing the IT channel to use the relationship they have with their customers. Telcos will go to resellers with solutions in competition, or in conjunction with IT vendors."
Such broadband and data technologies would affect traditional revenues, but he was unsure how it would pan out.
"At this stage, we still need a fairly educated consumer to take advantage of VoIP," Thorne said.
Another distributor, Westan, is deploying VoIP for internal use and once it understands the technology better, it will push VoIP in the marketplace.
"The market at the moment is sitting with the telcos, rather than the IT vendors," managing director Victor Aghtan, said. "Eventually it might move to IT channels but we don't see it moving very rapidly. Communications and IT channels are going to merge but it hasn't done that yet."
Channelworx managing director, Scott Lidgett, said Telstra's purchase of services company, Kaz, illustrated this consolidation.
To do a VoIP network properly was still complicated as it involved issues such as bandwith management and various new protocols, Lidgett said.
Choice was also important, he said.
Lidgett's advised businesses to go to a competent integrator that would make the most of their links with IT vendors and telcos.
"For VoIP, I want the ability to choose from Avaya, Cisco, Alcatel - any of the big players - plus small, lesser known vendors," he said.