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Web conferencing APAC's fastest-growing UC tool

Audio conferencing still most-used communications tool in region but hosted Web conferencing will experience highest adoption rates through to 2017, analyst says.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Audio conferencing currently remains Asia-Pacific businesses' most popular form of unified communications (UC), but it is Web conferencing delivered over the cloud that's growing the fastest, noted an analyst. Japan and emerging economies such as India, China and Malaysia, are markets where vendors should focus their attention on, she advised.

Jessie Yu, industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said several industry-wide factors are driving enterprise customers to adopt communications technology in the region. These include conferencing services moving into the collaboration space, customers gaining more satisfaction from using such services, new pricing models that are making these services more appealing and IT consumerization in which mobile devices are inevitably brought into organizations by their employees, she noted in a briefing here Thursday.

Zooming in on audio, Web and video conferencing tools delivered via software-as-a-service (SaaS), Yu revealed that the market is expected to reach US$544 million this year, from US$256 million in 2005. This momentum to continue over the next six years, reaching US$1.3 billion by 2017, she said.

Hosted Web conferencing products, in particular, are getting "robust awareness", the analyst pointed out. In terms of market growth, cloud-based Web conferencing is expected to lead the way with 22 percent growth between 2010 and 2017, compared with 10.8 percent for audio conferencing and 9.5 percent for video conferencing. Yu expects Web conferencing to make up 30 percent of the US$1.3 billion SaaS-based conferencing market by 2017.

Emerging markets such as Malaysia, China and India are increasingly aware of and utilizing Web conferencing tools but it is Japan that represents the biggest market opportunity for communication vendors to tap on, Yu stated. In 2010, the country accounted for 28.5 percent of Asia-Pacific's total investments, most of which went to "video bridging" and Web conferencing services. Australia and New Zealand contributed 25.9 percent and 18.9 percent came from Greater China, which also includes Hong Kong, she noted.

Looking ahead, Japan will continue to maintain its strong investments in such tools and grow its share of the region's investments to 30.1 percent by 2017, the Frost & Sullivan analyst said. This is in part due to the strong uptake in Web conferencing as more large enterprises move away from on-premise conferencing deployments, she explained.

Greater China will however experience a dip in 2014, dropping 0.6 percentage points because Hong Kong's audio conferencing market has reached "saturation point", Yu added.

As such, both global vendors including Microsoft, Cisco and Polycom as well as local service providers such as Singapore's SingTel, Japan's V-Cube and Australia's Telstra have recognized that Web conferencing is the pie that they should be going after.

According to her, competition is warming up in this segment as the audio conferencing market is already dominated by global service providers while video conferencing is still viewed with suspicion by many enterprises, thereby hindering adoption.

Strong local demand in countries such as India and China may mean Web conferencing customers favor regional service providers over global rivals, she added.

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