Australia’s Golden Opportunity for Cloud Communications Providers

As Australia embarks on its ambitious ISDN depreciation program, we’ll be writing a series of articles assessing the current communications landscape in the country. Today, a look at what this means for cloud communications providers…

Australia is in the midst of one of the most ambitious infrastructure overhauls in its modern history – one that will have far-reaching implications for business communications across the country and offers lucrative rewards for cloud-based voice service providers entering the market. But the clock is ticking and the most successful will be those that strike while the iron is hot.

ISDN Shutdown and NBN Rollout

Like a number of other incumbent carriers including Swisscom, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and BT, Telstra is in the process of shutting down the ISDN and going all IP. But the Australian government has decided to take things one step further by incorporating this shutdown into the rollout of a new National Broadband Network (NBN) that will replace the existing copper cable telephone network, providing fiber-optic internet and telephony services to the vast majority of premises across the country – including under-served areas outside major coastal population zones. I’ve written before about the politics involved in the rollout. You can see my previous thoughts on the matter here.

The NBN rollout will see the wholesale shutdown of existing landline phone services provided over Telstra’s copper network. Telstra stopped sale of new ISDN services in January 2018 and started disconnecting regions in September 2019. By 2022, the provider has pledged to stop supporting all ISDN services including ISDN2, ISDN2 enhanced and ISDN10/20/30.

You can see Telstra’s current plan to migrate services from its legacy copper and HFC (hybrid fiber-coaxial) network to the NBN here.

Australia's ISDN Shutdown Plan

READ NEXT: Porting Phone Numbers in Australia – Everything You Need to Know About the Current Portability Situation

At the same time, a range of technologies including fiber to the premises (FTTP), fiber to the node (FTTN) and fiber to the curb (FTTC) are being deployed to ensure delivery of the NBN to 92% of premises in Australia by the middle of 2020, with the remaining 8% of the country to be served by a combination of wireless and satellite coverage.

Once a premises is able to connect to the NBN, businesses and homeowners will have 18 months to switch to an NBN-supported provider before their legacy telephony solutions are shut down.

Huge Revenues on the Line for Cloud Comms Providers

As a result of the digital switchover, businesses are already in the process of migrating en masse to voice and data services that are supported by the NBN. In 2008, the value of the ISDN market was estimated by Telstra at AU$978 million. By 2018 a decade later, this had fallen to AU$467 million, and it dropped a further 20% to AU$387 million in 2019. Of course, as the ISDN is decommissioned, this value doesn’t disappear. It is simply reallocated to IP-based communications services.

And looking at the remaining value of the ISDN market, there is still a significant chunk of change that needs migrating away from the ISDN to offerings supported by the NBN in the next three years, meaning service providers must act now or risk missing out.

As the main player powering the majority of cloud comms providers across Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS), contact center and conferencing, we’ve seen a steady increase over the past 12 months in network traffic for Australia, now our third biggest market. This is occurring as more businesses begin the process of moving away from the ISDN and new providers enter the fray with SIP-based communications offerings.

Already in 2019, there has been a 24% increase over 2018 in total minutes of Australian traffic from service providers on the Voxbone network, with some enjoying four- and five-digit percentage growth. And the year’s not finished yet. Filtering out providers that joined Voxbone or expanded into Australia this year, the increase in total minutes rises to 32%, suggesting that new providers are already playing catch up to some degree. If you wish to know why all these companies come to Voxbone, make sure to read to the end!

Looking at the ten biggest providers in Australia by total minutes, we see an interesting mix of conferencing, contact centers and UCaaS use cases. But beyond the heavy hitters you would expect to see in such a list, there are enough less familiar names to indicate that there is still plenty to play for among providers who have not yet entered the Australian market.Australia's Multi Technology Mix

Given the rapid growth being witnessed in the Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) sector in particular, which Synergy Research Group expects to grow by 26% annually over the next five years, we would expect new players to continue launching their services in Australia with some haste as the 2022 deadline approaches. And our own network usage data certainly gives them compelling reasons for doing so, showing the steadily-growing usage of SIP services in Australia, the growing number of service providers moving into the market and the success (both in volumes of minutes and percentage growth) being enjoyed by a slew of lesser-known providers.

It’s fair to say that, given the size of the market opportunity presented by Australia’s decommissioning of the ISDN, there is plenty to go around. Indeed, there are already more than 10 million premises that are ready to connect to the NBN, including a majority of the businesses that operate in the country. As of 2016, there were more than 2 million small businesses in the country (1-19 employees, 97.4% of all businesses), a further 51,000 medium-sized (20-199 employees, 2.4% of total) and 3,700 large (200+, 0.2%). And they all need to migrate to NBN-supported voice services by 2022.

The Quickest Way to Deploy Down Under

Due to the imminent and pressing need for VoIP services to support Australia’s businesses across functions from unified communications to contact centers, it’s not surprising to see more UCaaS, CCaaS and CPaaS providers extending their platforms into the country, while those with an existing Antipodean presence are marketing themselves more aggressively.

Finding a Trusted SIP Provider

If your platform is not already available in the country, the new convention dictates that the quickest way to launch is by adding coverage from a SIP trunking provider. And preferably one with APIs for rapid deployment and support for phone number porting in the country, so that the new customers you sign in Australia can easily switch existing phone numbers from their previous solution to your services. (Read more on the current landscape regarding number porting in Australia here!)

While you’re identifying a SIP provider, you’ll need to contact the regulator to understand the local landscape and undertake any required compliance before reaching a commercial agreement with your telephony partner and completing the dev work to integrate their systems with yours. Much better than working with legacy carriers, but there is an even easier way.

BYOC: The Rapid Soft-Launch Option

By unbundling the telephony layer from your application and allowing your customers to bring one or several approved carriers, you can massively speed up deployment times by completely removing the need to deal with carriers and regulators, offloading management of the telephony services for your customers to your SIP provider. Once you’ve identified a carrier, all you need to do is the same dev work to integrate your systems and you can start onboarding customers in a matter of days or weeks.

The Voxbone Edge in Australia

Voxbone supports the majority of Leaders across Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrants for UCaaS, Meetings and CCaaS. And we’ve helped many of these, not to mention hundreds more, extend their coverage Down Under. For many of these providers with strongholds in the United States and the UK, it makes sense to expand into Australia as they globally scale their applications because it is another major English-speaking market. It’s also a top-15 nation by GDP and a top-10 nation by GDP per capita.

Australia is now our third largest market after the US and the UK. Among the reasons for this is that we operate our own number ranges in the country and are one of the only providers with a physical presence in the country. Because we own and operate a Point-of-Presence (PoP) in Sydney, you can easily connect your local customers to our network without their traffic ever needing to leave the country – for the best-possible quality, latency and security.

We also offer our Full Stack voice service in Australia, meaning you can provide your customers with Australian local, national, toll-free and mobile phone numbers for inbound calls, plus the ability to make domestic and international calls. Our Australian Domestic Calling service fully replicates legacy telephony services, with local CLIs and access to the country’s entire national numbering plan, including special numbers such as 000.

With our Emergency Services API, it is easy for your customers to quickly provide the required information to setup and configure access to emergency services from their Voxbone phone numbers – no matter their location within the country. We’re currently in beta testing for the API and you can check out the documentation here.

Learn more about the current landscape around number porting in Australia here!