Software Creates Innovative Options in Business Communications

Telecom providers are creating new offerings in connectivity and communications for businesses thanks to the features and accessibility that software rather than hardware creates.

The core purpose of communications, especially for business, is to keep parties connected with the information they need. Immediate access is vital regardless of whether it is a voice call or digital message.

Providers such as Comcast, Vonage, Verizon and AT&T continue to make new services available to their New Jersey–based clientele as business demands continue to evolve.

“We’re seeing the need for bandwidth and infrastructure really grow,” says David Egan, senior director of enterprise sales for Comcast Business. More companies are taking their communications needs to the cloud, he says. For example, Comcast Business offers VoiceEdge – a cloud-based phone service that also includes unified communications.

The concept of unified communications ties together every means of reaching out to colleagues and customers, helping the user stay on top of all messages. This can include instant messages, mobile messaging, voice, and video chat. Egan says providing such services means upgrading businesses to new connection options.

“We’ve spent more than $60 million in the region of Philly, New Jersey, and a bit of Delaware, to meet the needs of those customers,” he says. The company’s business customers in New Jersey have access to bandwidths of 1 gigabits of data per second for downloads, and through fiber optic services, up to 40 gigabits per second. Egan says Comcast plans to make fiber available to all of its potential customers in New Jersey.

All told, Comcast has more than 5,000 employees in New Jersey with a staff in Mount Laurel working on software applications. The company serves more than 1 million customers in the state, overall.

Products Comcast offers include SD-WAN (software-defined, wide-area network), which gives businesses a way to manage networks for remote locations from their headquarters. “Software-defined networking is emerging as the future of complex business networking services and is a major enabling factor in the recent enterprise trend of digital transformation,” he says.

A network administrator at a business that uses SD-WAN could remotely spot issues clogging the network. “They can see what is swallowing the bandwidth and where they need to make tweaks,” Egan says.


Holmdel-based, cloud communications provider Vonage also sees forms of messaging coming together. “The promise of unified communications is finally here,” says Brian Gilman, vice president of product marketing for Vonage. The company has more than 500 employees in New Jersey with a network monitoring center and a new technology center for training.

Unified communications had been discussed for than a decade, he says, but until now did not allow much interaction across platforms. Now, there is mobility, collaboration software, and customer engagement integrated into business applications.

“Voice is no longer just voice,” Gilman says. “It’s an enabling technology that helps drive productivity and innovation.”

The consumer market remains a key driver of the technology used in business communications, Gilman says. The features individuals expect in their daily lives, such as with Instagram or Snapchat, increasingly appear in business communications. Video collaboration and team messaging, for instance, are sought in the workplace because social media reinforces those behaviors. Likewise, customers want more efficient interactions with the businesses they patronize, with information moving seamlessly across departments to the appropriate party. “If they can’t do it with the business they are dealing with, they will go to the guy down the street,” Gilman says.

Verizon Wireless

At Verizon Wireless, an effort is made to work with businesses on their productivity, image, expenses, revenue and security, says Mark Tina, executive director of business sales and operations. Making sure that messages reach their intended party, Verizon Wireless offers One Talk, which is a mobile-first solution that lets customers communicate with businesses regardless of where they are. Through One Talk, companies’ staff can receive calls whether they are at their desks or in the field.

New this spring from Verizon, Tina says, a stand-alone Auto Attendant feature was made available because it was popular as a bundled service. Auto Attendant is a virtual receptionist that lets small businesses give a professional impression to callers by greeting them and routing calls to the correct employee.

Verizon Wireless, and parent Verizon Communications, are eager to be more than the medium that businesses use to communicate, Tina says. This means offering services such as One Talk that integrate communication features. “We don’t just want to be that pipe that data travels over,” he says. “We want to be involved in the application layer.” Verizon’s operational headquarters is in Basking Ridge and its northeast market headquarters is in Morristown. The company has more than 14,000 employees in the state and also maintains a network operation center here.


AT&T has taken its own steps in bringing software-defined networks and other services to its business customers, says Chris Costello, the company’s vice president of national business, allowing for more flexibility. “It means we can create tailor-made solutions for businesses large and small. For large businesses, we can create private networks connecting offices and facilities around the world,” he says.

AT&T Labs, with operations in Middletown and Bedminster, has been developing innovations in communication that date back to the transistor radio, Costello says. “Our researchers look beyond today’s technology solutions to invent disruptive technologies that meet future needs.” The company also runs its global network operations center in Bedminster to monitor network performance for all services.

The company, which has more than 7,400 employees in New Jersey, offers services to industries including retail, manufacturing, finance and healthcare, Costello says. Its products, such as AT&T Collaborate, let businesses create unified communications systems to handle voice calls, instant messaging, video and conferencing in an integrated way. “This works whether your business uses cellphone, landlines, PCs or a combination of all three,” he says.

The next generation of wireless, known as 5G, stands to further transform how businesses communicate when it debuts. Costello says AT&T intends to introduce 5G service to its customers by late 2018. “AT&T is building the technology infrastructure that will eventually fundamentally change the way the world lives and works,” he says. That could include greater mobility and smarter connectivity for businesses and society as a whole.


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