2011 Reviewed: Business VoIP Overtakes PBXes

Business VoIP appears to be winning the battle against traditional PBXes, if I’m reading the latest results from research house Infonetics correctly.

According to a newly released report by Infonetics, while PBX sales in 2011 rose globally year-over-year by a reasonable total of 6 percent, somewhere around the end of last year the market turned. “Pure IP PBX systems and unified messaging were the sole segments of the enterprise VoIP and UC (unified communications) equipment market to post sequential growth in the fourth quarter.” Infonetics says.

For the full year 2011, pure IP PBX line shipments grew strongest among all market segments, up 12 percent, Infonetics also notes says.

The numbers don’t tell the entire story, though. The reported growth of traditional PBXes for the year is attributed almost entirely to Asia and Latin America. In the U.S. and EMEA “small and medium businesses did not add employees at a rate that necessitated meaningful sales of PBX lines, and many continued to hold off on upgrades,” Infonetics says.

I have a different view, though. It doesn’t look to me as if the problem in the PBX business is the sluggish rate of job growth in the U.S. and EMEA. Rather it’s because business VoIP services are gaining momentum, the virtual PBX is taking hold and siphoning off ever more of what in past years would have been sales of traditional PBX, and of telephone key systems at the very low end.

To be sure, very large enterprises – those which need thousands and tens of thousands of phone lines – are buying their own IP PBX hardware. But Infonetics isn’t publicly factoring in the loss of hardware sales to the burgeoning virtual PBX market, the one served by companies such as Phone.com with its Enterprise VoIP phone service plan.

Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.