NEC advances and rebrands its unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering as UNIVERGE BLUE Business Cloud Services. First launched in March 2013 as NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services, the updated and rebranded UNIVERGE BLUE service is available directly from NEC and through NEC channel partners in the United States, with expansion to Canada expected soon and European coverage set to follow in 2016. To date, over 200 NEC partners have signed up to sell the subscription-based UCaaS service in addition to NEC’s on-premises telephony equipment portfolio.
NEC has been soliciting partner feedback since 2014 through a “cloud focus group” and has used this valuable information to enhance its UCaaS offering, including designing a new UNIVERGE BLUE website that provides potential customers with information about products/services, vertical solutions, subscription plan details and how to subscribe or request a quote. NEC has also updated its dealer compensation model, developed a new self-service portal (for dealers and end-users) and will be introducing several advanced cloud-based applications that will roll out in phases. Desktop Collaboration as-a-service is expected soon (first quarter 2016), followed by cloud applications for emergency conferencing, mass notification and video collaboration.
NEC has a long history in communications (100 years, with 50 years in the U.S.) and is unique from many UCaaS providers in that it owns the technology from end-to-end. NEC manufactures the UCaaS components, develops the call control software and applications (NEC UNIVERGE 3C software is common to both premises and cloud deployments), manages and provisions the Tier 3 geo-redundant data centers, manages a 24×7 Network Operations Center and monitors the MPLS network to identify and avoid QoS issues when transporting voice, data and video. “Over-the-top” deployments are also possible per specific NEC guidelines.
Like the earlier cloud offer, UNIVERGE BLUE has three user seats, Basic, Standard and Premium, that address varying user needs and which can be mixed and matched and customized with a selection of add-on capabilities. The package naming remains the same, but the feature content and options have evolved to create a more flexible and competitive offer. The Standard user seat now optionally supports many of the capabilities originally available only to Premium users such as mobility, call recording and the forthcoming collaborative applications.
- Basic: The Basic user seat, suitable for lobbies and common areas, comes with over 300 telephony features like call waiting, Caller ID, transfer, forward and 911 Service. Long distance calling is priced per minute per user, and voicemail, auto attendants, queue groups and meet-me audio conferencing are add-on options.
- Standard: General office users and receptionists will likely choose the Standard package which builds upon Basic, but includes voicemail and unified messaging and a hard phone device license, as well as 75 minutes per month of pooled long distance calling. A number of more advanced capabilities can be added such as UC desktop call control with instant messaging and presence capabilities and device management, video calling, basic mobility (twinning) or a mobile client for iOS and Android devices, call recording and several forthcoming applications: desktop collaboration, Firebar conferencing (emergency dial-out conferencing), mass notification and video collaboration.
- Premium: The Premium seat is designed for power users and executives and includes all Basic and Standard functionality, plus UC desktop call control with instant messaging and presence capabilities and device management, video calling, basic mobility (twinning) or a mobile client for iOS and Android devices, and the selection of a hard phone or softphone device license, as well as 150 minutes per month of pooled long distance calling. Queue groups, meet-me conferencing, call recording and the forthcoming collaborative applications are optionally added.
NEC’s Hybrid Approach
NEC’s cloud service uses the company’s UNIVERGE 3C as the core software. Using the same software stream for both the premises and the cloud offer lends itself well to hybrid environments in which a business can install telephony equipment on-site and/or utilize cloud services according to their particular business communications needs and requirements – the same familiar features are available in either deployment model. For example, the cloud service can act as a disaster recovery solution for an on-premises UNIVERGE 3C system, or vice versa. Or, businesses that have installed the UNIVERGE 3C at a main office can subscribe to the cloud service at branch locations.
On top of that, NEC has been introducing standalone cloud-based applications for customers that have an on-site UNIVERGE 3C or NEC SV9000 or earlier SV8000 telephony system. These customers continue to use their existing phone system, but can subscribe to advanced capabilities as-a-service for a monthly subscription fee. Cloud-based applications for meet-me audio conferencing and contact center are already available, and applications for desktop collaboration, emergency conferencing, mass notification and video collaboration are coming soon. Stay tuned.