Verizon-Cisco Collaboration Provides Cloud-Based UC Offering To Channel, Customers

Telecommunications heavyweight Verizon announced enhancements to its Unified Communications and Collaboration as a Service (UCCaaS) offering. The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based company introduced UCCaaS Mobile First, a cloud-based collaboration solution based on Cisco's Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) on Wednesday.

Verizon's UCCaaS Mobile First offering will allow mobile users to instant message, and make and receive HD voice and video calls on their preferred devices through the Cisco Jabber UC client over Verizon's 4G LTE network.

The upgrades also bolster the provider's cloud-based audio conferencing capabilities. The conferencing capability within the new product is based on Cisco's WebEx Cloud Connected Audio and Collaboration Meeting Room offerings.

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Verizon's offering of instant messaging, conferencing and collaboration through Cisco applications is a powerful -- and lucrative -- combination from a sales perspective, said Ken Mercer, vice president of master agent Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI), a Verizon Platinum partner.

"This isn't just Verizon (offering) Cisco phones now. Its two big goliaths really playing to the new 'voice as an application' era. Verizon has the global reach and the network, and Cisco has the hardware that makes it work, and for the two of them to come together is pretty impressive and [offers] a lot of value," Mercer said.

Rather than build its own conferencing bridges that connect into third-party applications, Verizon is relying on Cisco's cloud-connected audio technology. This combination gives customers and partners a cost-effective approach to conferencing, said Frank Ciccone, head of Verizon's global advanced communications practice.

Cisco's Connected Audio and Collaboration Meeting Rooms give users the ability to start an on-demand conference from any device across more than 150 countries globally.

Verizon is continuing its partnership with Cisco to combine the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor's industry-leading UC products with its own 4G LTE network to ensure reliable communications and a quality experience, regardless of where the end user is, Ciccone said.

"By singling out Cisco and enhancing the entire suite, we believe we have the most integrated solution that provides a great user experience," he added.

Chicago-based TBI has been offering UC via smaller providers, but both the popularity of the Cisco and Verizon brands, coupled with Verizon's global reach will be huge for solution providers, Mercer said.

"Basically, Verizon is offering Cisco on a recurring revenue basis," he said. "It's a huge win for us because VARs are trying to find a way to reinvent themselves and if they were a big Cisco house, they can still sell Cisco in a monthly recurring commission model and at a lower cost per month for the customer."

Verizon's partners will be able to sell UCCaaS directly to end customers in a reseller model, or through an agent model and receive a commission from Verizon.

Verizon is also opening up its APIs to build points of integration into other third-party UCaaS and collaboration tools, such as Salesforce, Verizon's Ciccone said.

Collaboration deployments are only successful if business use cases are considered first, and that's where partners come in, according to Ciccone.

"A partner that serves a certain vertical might want to resell and embed this platform into one of their own solutions," he said.

While some businesses are still on legacy voice systems with PBXs on their desktops, it's not a matter of if these companies will go to the cloud, it's a matter of when, Ciccone said.

"There are a lot of agents out there managing PBXs and gear, but companies will need these partners to take them to the cloud," he said.