Once upon a time, nearly all businesses would treat their IT and telephony needs as separate requirements. They would typically set up and maintain their phone system with one vendor, while working with another company to establish their IT infrastructure.

Words such as ‘convergence’ and ‘unified communications’ had yet to gain acceptance at this time, as IT and telephony were viewed as entirely separate utilities. This all changed as internet connectivity improved and it became clear that organisations could save a significant amount of money by using the data networks they already had in place to carry voice services as well.

In order for businesses to harness voice over internet protocol technology, their computers effectively doubled up as telephones and companies augmented or replaced their traditional phone switches with servers, this has meant companies could direct all their resources at creating and maintaining a single network, instead of two or three.

The Case For Convergence

Nowadays, the case for convergence is widely accepted and there are few businesses that have not chosen to integrate their voice and IT systems in some way. IT and telecoms are no longer viewed as completely different entities.

With data volumes growing rapidly and voice traffic seeing only a small increase each year in comparison, experts believe that voice will soon no longer require a separate infrastructure at all – in the future, it will simply piggy-back on data networks. According to recent statistics from telecoms research firm TeleGeography, global voice traffic grew by just 5% in 2012. Data traffic, on the other hand, is doubling in volume each year.

The business case for the convergence of voice and data may now be well established, but companies have another key issue on the horizon – mobile data. The widespread proliferation of smartphones and tablet devices means a growing number of employees now have the capacity to be mobile workers, carrying out tasks while on the move or at home.

This trend has also been fuelled by pressure on employers to offer more flexible working opportunities and a greater focus on promoting a healthy work-life balance.

Mobile Working Is Finally Becoming Mainstream

In a survey published by O2 in October 2012, 65% of British businesses said they expect 30% more of their employees – the equivalent of just over seven million people – to become mobile workers as the demand for flexible working continues to grow.

The research also revealed that 85% of enterprises are now moving to a fully consolidated voice, mobile and data network, primarily because dealing with a single supplier becomes particularly attractive with such a large number of extra devices on the network. More than half of the enterprises surveyed said they view consolidation as a high priority for their business.

At the same time, mobile data traffic is growing at a remarkable rate. According to a recent report from Cisco, mobile data volumes are set to increase 13-fold over the next four years; reaching 11.2 Exabyte per month in 2017 (an exabyte is a unit equal to one quintillion bytes).

“With such dramatic adoption, we are rapidly approaching the time when nearly every network experience will be a mobile one,” commented Doug Webster, vice president of service provider networking marketing at Cisco.

With this in mind, businesses of all sizes need to consider their mobile strategy and find the best way of integrating mobile connectivity in their existing network. With mobile communications set to make up an increasingly large proportion of a company’s overall data usage, enterprises should also review business mobile tariffs to ensure they are getting the best value and functionality for their needs.