3 frontrunners in on-premise communication servers

Many changes have taken place in the field of communication solutions for fixed telephony in recent years. Fixed telephony as a service is now offered by a large number of service providers, Voice over IP has more users on the business market than conventional PSTN connections and the number of parties that proprietary communication servers offer to end users is being reduced by takeovers and leavers. Looking at the Belgian business establishments which still have a communication solution for fixed telephony on their own location, three names come most to the fore: Mitel, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) and Unify (Siemens). Communication systems from these vendors are installed at Belgian business establishments (19%, 18% and 17% respectively) which indicates that they still use a solution at their own site. All other vendors follow at a certain distance. This is shown by an analysis by Computer Profile based on 2,700 interviews conducted with IT and/or telecom managerial staff at Belgian business establishments with 50 or more employees from both the public and commercial sector.

A further breakdown of market segments reveals a number of clear differences for vendors and segments. In the public domain, i.e. the government, education and healthcare, Alcatel-Lucent is the most common communication solution with a certain lead. Cisco and Avaya assume a more prominent role by comparison with other segments among Multinationals, while Mitel holds the lead in the SME market. In addition, we see a number of market players mentioned regularly who are not manufacturers of a communication solution themselves, such as Proximus and Nextel. Both are

leading players on the Belgian market for telecom solutions and services, where they provide hardware for communication platforms through partners. For instance, currently Proximus offers the Mitel on-premise communication solutions, while Nextel offers systems from Alcatel-Lucent and NEC. Because the end user names this supplier and not the manufacturer during interviews, and also because installations which can be in use for some time already are at issue (while other brands may have also been offered by these service providers in the past), these suppliers are presented separately for the sake of completeness.

When, in addition to the use of an on-premise communication solution for fixed telephony from a certain vendor (penetration), the capacity of the system in the number of extensions/workstations is taken into account, the picture below emerges. Whereas Mitel is the most common solution, Alcatel-Lucent has the largest share in workstations/extensions. This is in large measure due to the fact that Alcatel-Lucent is very prominent in the public sector, where large governmental authorities have a major impact.

A comparable situation can be seen for Cisco and Avaya, which come relatively more to the fore at sites of Multinationals. This segment too is characterized by major sites with many employees.

Average age of the PABX

Communication solutions for fixed telephony have a relatively long lifecycle. The average age of the current systems in use is about eight years and eight months. Manufacturers who have sold few new systems to the interviewed business establishments in recent years will thus have a high average life, while manufacturers who have sold many systems in the most recently years have a lower average life.

The systems with the average youngest life are the communication solutions from Escaux. With an average life of above six years, they are more than 2 years younger on average than the overall average. The number of systems on which the average life is based is given between brackets after the name of the vendor: the larger the number, the more reliable the average found. Philips PABXs

are the oldest systems still in use by far. The average age is over 14 years. These are installations in governmental authorities for the most part. The older systems are likely to be the first that will be considered for replacement. Whether they will be replaced by an on-premise communication server is doubtful, to say the least, given the increasing use of Hosted Voice. The figures of recent years seem to corroborate that trend. In the analysis conducted in 2016, the average age of an on-premise PABX was still 7.3 years, in 2017 7.5 years, and now 8.7 years — whether the replacement of the PABX is postponed longer and longer or hosted voice is used instead of replacement with a new on-remise solution.


In addition to the use of a communication solution for fixed telephony, the survey also explores whether videoconferencing solutions are used in Belgian companies. We see that the number of providers is increasing on this front too, including through acquisitions and mergers. The parties still come clearly to the fore. Polycom is the most common application, with a Polycom system accounting for about 46% of all the solutions encountered. Cisco and Cisco Tandberg account for over a third of the systems in use (35%). LifeSize ranks third, with a 10% share, and is the party that has gained that clear share in the last six years, while the use of videoconferencing has been dropping in recent years. Some 14% of the sites currently indicate that they use (Enterprise) videoconferencing solutions. That figure was 16% last year, and 18% in 2016. The adoption and availability of online platforms have been on the rise in recent years. For instance, many end users will have skype for business features through an Office 365 account, but many other videoconferencing services are also low-threshold and sufficient for many users.