USM: Who Prefers What…

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Increasingly, end-users feel the need to effectively manage multiple message

types from a single interface. This has led to a demand for services that allow

one to send and receive messages in any format, from the access device of one’s

choice. This is driving the growth of unified messaging services (UMS)



Services like UMS complement the convergence of voice and data networks–which

is more or less going to be the basis for developing ‘killer’ applications

in the near future–to seamlessly integrate the capabilities of the PSTN,

mobile and IP networks.


carriers, vendors, system integrators and technology resellers are seeing UMS as

a revenue generating opportunity. In India, however, UMS is at a nascent stage.

Market Dynamics

As is the case with every new technology, it is very important to understand

the market dynamics of UMS with respect to the acceptance levels of various

groups, particularly the end user. Equally important are the relationships among

vendors of UMS solutions and those among the technology resellers. And then

there are the carriers who want to offer unified messaging as a value-added

service to their subscribers and the enterprises who need UMS to offer seamless

unified messaging capabilities to their employees in order to enhance the



The dynamics that exist between the UMS vendors and the different target

market segments they are catering to–the carriers and enterprise–vary

depending on the requirements of the end user. In case of carriers, the end user

is the subscriber, whereas in case of enterprises, it is the telecommuting staff

and top management of the companies.


Vendors and Implementations in India


of the prominent UMS vendors are CommWorks, Comverse, Avaya,

Glenayre Inc, CMG Wireless Data Solutions, Active Voice Corporation

and Alliance Infotech. Comverse is a dominant player on the voice

messaging front. AirTel and BPL Mobile in Mumbai and Escotel and

Hutch in Delhi are some service providers who have implemented

Comverse’s voice messaging systems. Glenayre Inc’s UMS offering

has been analyzed by AirTel in Delhi and Idea Cellular in Pune for

their proposed plans for offering UMS. i2i Enterprises, Mumbai, a

leading network distributor in India, is contemplating marketing

Glenayre Inc’s UMS platform to the Indian service providers.

Bharti Telenet has implemented the CommWorks 8250 UMS suite for

offering UMS to its subscribers in its five circles in the north.

Caltiger, the Kolkata-based ISP, is also using CommWorks 8250 for

providing FoIP and UMS services.


contenders for offering UMS as a value-added service in the near

future are MTNL, Hutch and AirTel in Delhi, BSNL, Orange and BPL

Mobile in Mumbai and Idea Cellular and BPL Cellular in the

Maharashtra circle. Recently, BPL Mobile has tied up with Navin Mail

and is using the latter’s product, Telivoice, for providing mobile

answering phone service (MAPS) to AirTel’s end users. According to

BPL Mobile, this is part of its strategy to gradually migrate to



Internet service providers are also contemplating using their

in-house software development skills to come out with a UMS

platform. Domain experts in voice messaging software development are

concentrating more on providing their platforms on a revenue sharing

basis to service providers rather than offering these services on

their own. Mumbai-based Navin Mail and Phonologies are prominent

among such players. Both have acquired licenses from DoT for

offering UMS and are focusing on the service provider market within


The revenue-sharing

model is most suited for service providers in the current Indian

scenario. But it has to be put to practice through tie-ups with

major UMS vendors, who are currently operating on an outright sales


UMS vendors in India fall under two categories. The first category comprises

major international players like 3Com, Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, CMG Data Wireless

and Logica. These players have mostly been catering to the enterprise UMS

installation market worldwide and generally indulge in outright sales of UMS

platforms. Many of them are exploring synergies with Indian carriers and

enterprises alike for UMS platform installations.


The second category of vendors consists of the slowly but steadily upcoming

application development companies, which provide cost-effective solutions for

Indian telecom operators. Navin Mail, a company founded by Sabeer Bhatia is

emerging as a pioneer in this category. Telivoice, a product of this company has

been adopted by many Indian telcos for providing primarily voice mail services

to their subscribers.

Features Are Mostly Basic

UMS is in a ‘bits and pieces’ format in India, with service providers

offering only certain feature sets of UMS to end-users.

Seven service providers–Spice Communications, HFCL Infotel, Shyam Telelink,

Oasis Cellular, Bharti Telenet, Hutch, Hyderabad and Caltiger–are already

offering UMS to their existing subscribers. They are mainly forwarding voice

mails and faxes as attachments from fixed/mobile phones to any e-mail address.


Features of UMS include sending voice messages and faxes as e-mail

attachments, new message notifications over the phone, message filtering, and

e-mail readouts over the phone using text-to-speech conversion. UMS will also

enable mail dictations using by speech recognition software and forwarding of

faxes to any fax machine using a graphical or telephonic interface.

Most of the features currently being offered by service providers are basic

in nature. They allow users to send voice messages and faxes as attachments with

e-mails and notify them about new fax messages and e-mails over the mobile


E-mail readout, enabled by text-to-speech conversion, is a feature that would

be introduced in due course of time by operators. Phillips, Germany is a major

player on this front and most of the UMS vendors have a tie up with Phillips for

adding the text-to-speech functionality to their platforms.


Speech recognition is still at its infancy even in the international markets.

Hence it’s a far-fetched thought of introducing it in India. SpeechWorks and

Dragon Software are pioneers in the speech recognition software market.

Demand Potential

There is a lot of demand for services that will enable users to access

messages of all formats from a single interface. UMS provides a solution to

these needs and at the same time, gives service providers a unique opportunity

for revenue generation and differentiating their services from competitors.

The key to revenue maximization for service providers lies in designing

different packages with respect to the different target market segments with

respect to pricing and feature sets. It is also important for them to adopt the

most cost-effective means of implementing UMS.


The majority of revenues will initially come from high-end corporate users

and telecommuters who feel the constant need to access their e-mails and control

their faxes from their mobile phones.

The enterprise market is another valuable business proposition for UMS

vendors and system integrators. Corporate UMS installations are growing in

number in Singapore and the US, where businesses are embracing it in order to

keep their sales force and telecommuters accessible to official e-mails, faxes

and voice mails at all times on devices of their choice.

In case of enterprise installations, CIOs are quite clear about the kind of

features that would be used by the employees in their companies. Hence, vendors

can customize the UMS platform in accordance with those specifications.

Enterprise-wide UMS usage is still at a nascent stage in India, but will give

UMS vendors a sizeable chunk of their revenues in the near future.


Implementation Options

There are primarily three options of acquiring a UMS platform in the current

scenario. The exact choice will depend on whether the implementation will be

done by a service provider or an enterprise, after evaluating the


Outright Purchase from Vendor: In this approach, the cost of the solution is

conventionally on a per-subscriber basis. The per-subscriber cost of a UMS

platform currently lies in the range of Rs 800 to Rs 1,000. With the increase in

number of subscribers, the cost of the platform is scaled up accordingly. Most

of the UMS implementations in India fall in this category. Some of the service

provider-vendor tie-ups in this category are Bharti Telenet—CommWorks in

Delhi; Shyam Telelink—Alliance Infotech in Rajasthan; and HFCL Infotel—Alliance

Infotech in Punjab.

The outright purchase approach brings into picture the system integrators

that have tie-ups with vendors for the installation and troubleshooting. Most of

the major vendors operate in the form of small points of presence. Hence it

becomes important for them to garner the technical expertise of system

integrators for customization of the UMS solution in accordance with the

requirements of the service provider or the enterprise.

The approach is the most prevalent one in the enterprise space too. However,

unlike service providers, enterprises are not faced with the constraint of

regular upgradations in terms of number of end-users and therefore the cost to

the company is mostly fixed.

Revenue Sharing with UMS Platform Developers: This approach is giving the

outright purchase model a tough fight in today’s market scenario where service

providers are focusing on cutting costs in a big way. Platform developers do not

charge service providers anything for the UMS software, but share the revenue

with them, based on the usage of the service. This saves service providers from

the risk of incurring losses and also gives them the flexibility in pricing the

service. Orange in Mumbai, Spice Communications and Bharti Telenet, Delhi are

already using Navin Mail’s voice messaging service, Telivoice on a revenue

sharing basis. Oasis Cellular in Jaipur is using Rainbow’s UMS infrastructure

provided by Alliance Infotech on a revenue sharing basis. At present, there are

no carrier-vendor tie-ups in the category, but it is slowly emerging as a

cost-effective option to the outright purchase model. The only drawback of this

model is that not many Indian software developers are open to it.

In-house Development: This entails service providers to use their in-house

software development skills to come up with a UMS platform to suit their

requirements or to provide the software to other service providers. This

approach is more on the rise among the Internet service providers, who have

strong in-house software development skills. GTL has developed a UMS platform,

which may be used to provide UMS to its corporate customers as part of its

enterprise suite of solutions. Spice Communications, the cellular operator in

Punjab has developed a UMS platform and has been providing the service to its

subscribers since February 2002. Developing the platform in-house cost Spice Rs

80 lakh for an initially projected subscriber base of 10,000, which works out to

a per-subscriber cost of Rs 800. Spice did not meet with the anticipated success

and the subscriber base for UMS stood at around 1,000 as on May 2002.

One major player that is contemplating developing a UMS platform is Reliance

Infocomm. It is working on developing a variety of other software applications

for offering value-added services for its WiLL service. Once the regulatory

clearance is given to these value-added services, UMS would be a

revenue-generating proposition for the company.

Investment versus Gains

As we have seen from the different modes of implementations, service

providers and enterprises may adopt different methodologies for acquiring


The outright purchase model has worked for enterprises in the global markets

and has been seen as a viable option in the Indian scenario as well. Tata

Telecom-Avaya, 3Com, Logica and Nortel are some of the main vendors in this

category. Also, the system integration tie-ups of these vendors are in place,

which is a very important parameter in gauging the UMS vendors’ credibility.

Captaris Corp, a major UMS vendor in the US and Singapore, says that an

enterprise with an employee strength of 200 (180 office-based and 20 remote/travelling)

can recover the cost of the product in 68 business days. The SME/SOHO segment of

the Indian enterprise market would be the ideal target for the UMS vendors.

Indian service providers are yet to show a clear trend as far as the

implementation model of the UMS platform is concerned.

The main objective for service providers to offer services like UMS is to

generate additional revenue and hence they will avoid the risk of unnecessary

capital expenditure and instead work out a path that ensures return on


Given this scenario, UMS vendors would do well to offer their products to

service providers, initially on a revenue sharing basis, so that the latter are

able to offer services at a low price initially and generate awareness about the

service among end-users.

In the longer run, the service providers will anyway migrate to revenue

sharing, as it offers more flexibility in terms of designing different pricing

strategies for UMS services, without facing the risk of incurring losses

associated with outright purchase.

The immediate challenge for UMS vendors, as far as the service provider space

is concerned, is to revisit their existing model of outright purchase.

Meanwhile, they can expect action in the enterprise space.

It will, however, be some time before a wide-scale demand for UMS as a

value-added service is generated in India. A lot of user awareness is needed to

make that happen. The key, of course, lies in offering some feature sets of UMS

and making the user comfortable with the concept.

C Manikantan