Business Phones & the OPEX Model

by Sandra Gustavsen

Last June, we wrote about the growing number of traditional telephony equipment vendors seeking to simplify the payment model for customers that opt for on-site IP-PBX, contact center, messaging, meeting and UC solutions. These vendors recognize that many of today’s businesses still maintain or require on-site solutions, but they also recognize the appeal of the recurring, operational expenditure (OPEX) payment model that is the norm for a hosted/cloud service. In the June article, we highlighted several telephony equipment vendors on our radar that have begun to offer subscription pricing for on-site telephony system installations, similar to the recurring, OPEX payment models of their cloud-based UC alternatives.

Now, we can add business telephones to the list of “as-a-service” equipment options. Polycom, a leading provider of conferencing equipment, video collaboration solutions and open standards-based business telephones, recently launched a new Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) program that makes its desktop business phones and conferencing devices available as a monthly subscription.  Instead of buying and stocking the equipment upfront, Polycom partners simply pay a monthly fee for the phones or devices, thereby avoiding the usual financial risks of purchasing and owning equipment. The partner can then pass on this flexibility to their own customers.

With an OPEX payment model, the customer is not locked into the same phone or device long-term, but can upgrade to newer models at any time. That’s a big benefit as users can flexibly try out the features and functionality of different phone models and can more easily stay up-to-date with the latest phone technology. Polycom offers a large portfolio of business media phones, including its VVX  series with entry-level, mid-range and executive models that have color touch-screens and a one-touch videoconferencing capability. Polycom’s recently introduced RealPresence Trio “smart hub” is designed for modern group collaboration and combines voice, content-sharing and video into a single conferencing/collaboration device.

Polycom’s DaaS program runs month-to-month so customers have the option to cancel and return the phones or devices at any time with no penalty. A mandatory 7-year replacement plan allows the exchange of any device that fails during the first seven years of service.

The pilot opened in August to ITSPs in North America that offer the Polycom standards-based business phones and conferencing devices in concert with a cloud-based unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering. Impact Telecom, for example, is offering Polycom’s month-to-month DaaS model as a new and flexible option to customers that subscribe to Impact’s Hosted PBX service. Since then, the program has expanded to include all Polycom partners selling the company’s voice products. Polycom phones/devices work with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services worldwide.

Polycom DaaS: The Details

  • Initial Pilot: Polycom’s Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) partners in North America
  • General Availability: Now available to all Polycom partners selling the company’s voice products in North America; partners in the UK and the Netherlands may follow depending on additional partner feedback
  • Subscription Plan: Month-to-month; customers can cancel and return the phones at any time with no penalty
  • Polycom Devices in the Program: Polycom VVX Business Media phones (VVX 101, VVX 201, VVX 300, VVX 301, VVX 310, VVX 400, VVX 401, VVX 410, VVX 500, VVX 501, VVX 600, VVX 601), Polycom SoundStation IP5000, IP6000 and IP7000 VoIP conference phones, Polycom RealPresence Trio 8500 and 8800
  • Pricing: Monthly rental rates vary as these take into account the partner’s financial condition, volume amounts and churn rates. Typical rental factors range from .0265 to .028 (for example, a VVX 310 that lists for $219 would run $5.80 per month using the rental factor .0265). A mandatory 7-year replacement plan is also billed separately, but added into the monthly fee.

We’ve learned that Panasonic UK has launched a similar “Hardware-as-a-Service” (HWaaS) program in the European market, offering the company’s SIP-based business telephones and wireless DECT systems for a monthly fee in lieu of purchasing the hardware upfront. Unlike Panasonic’s month-to-month DaaS model, however, Panasonic’s HWaaS program requires a 24- or 36-month commitment, with the option to extend the contract or purchase the phones at the end of the term.

Program details will vary, but the trend in offering business phones as-a-service will continue as more SIP endpoint providers see the benefit to offering a simpler, subscription-based payment model for their hardware devices. Stay tuned.