This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

We haven’t had a new entrant into the VoIP infrastructure space in quite some time. Ubiquiti Networks snuck up on the industry in the Wi-Fi space, and I certainly expect them to make some noise in the VoIP market.

The end of July brings with it Major League Baseball’s trading deadline. Teams need to decide whether they are in contention or not. If they are, they then need to decide whether to go for it, and this creates some excitement as fans like myself get to curse their favorite teams as they do stupid things like trade Jon Lester. Whether your team is on the buying or selling side, it’s an exciting time of the year.

However, the tech industry is far less interesting this time of year, as many vendors hold off on product launches for the fall. This year though, we’ve had some interesting news with Apple announcing a partnership with IBM and Microsoft lopping off 18,000 workers. Additionally, on July 30, Ubiquiti Networks announced that it was formally entering the Enterprise VoIP market.

I’m guessing that not everyone reading this knows Ubiquiti Networks. The company is a wireless communications vendor that addresses fixed wireless broadband, wireless backhaul, routing, enterprise Wi-Fi, video surveillance and machine-to-machine communications.

Ubiquiti has a unique business model based on the concept of a community. A large group of service providers, VARs and other distributors work with the company’s own engineers to develop and improve products. This improves time to market and keeps costs down, allowing the company to have pricing that is disruptive to the market.

I was recently involved in an RFP where Ubiquiti was evaluated against four other mainstream Wi-Fi vendors, and the price was about 20% the cost of the next closest vendor. Ubiquiti doesn’t have the same broad set of features that one might get from the other vendors, but if what you’re looking for is a product that provides high quality Wi-Fi, they do a great job.

When I first ran across Ubiquiti I was skeptical as to whether the model would scale. The community approach has created a cost effective, scalable model for the organization. The company has only 183 employees, of which 111 are devoted to R&D so there’s very little “overhead” that isn’t directly tied to product or revenue. In FY08, Ubiquiti revenues were $22.4 million. In FY13, the company did a whopping $320 million and is projected to make $560 million in FY14.

Still, if you haven’t heard of them, you’re not alone, as much of Ubiquiti’s revenues come from emerging markets.

The company had actually foreshadowed its entry into the VoIP market, as its website has had a VoIP section on it for a while that said, “coming soon.” Ubiquiti never gave any kind of indication of what would be coming or when.

Well the mystery has been solved, as the company formally launched its UniFi VoIP product.

Earlier this month, Ubiquiti had launched a line of enterprise-focused LAN switching products. Given today’s need for power over Ethernet (PoE), the switches offer a nice complement to the VoIP and wireless products, letting them become an end-to-end communications provider.

The IP PBX software Ubiquiti is using comes from the open source provider Free Switch and comes bundled on an all-in-one device that includes not only the IP PBX but also a router, gateway and firewall. The company is also releasing what it calls an SDN controller, to centrally manage VoIP, the firm’s video surveillance product (UniFi Video), wireless LAN and the network, all from a single console.

Ubiquiti also unveiled its own IP phones as part of the launch. Initially there will be three different models of phones. The UVP has a 5-inch touch screen, full color display. The UVP-PRO is the same phone but adds a video camera, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. The UVP-Executive has a 7-inch display, also has a camera, Bluetooth support, Wi-Fi and adds stereo audio. I haven’t seen much in the way of pricing, but I know the basic UVP model lists for about $149. I would expect the Executive to be somewhere in the $200-$300 range.

The phones run Android KitKat 4.4.2 as the operating system, and support Google Play so they can run almost any Google App. Given the community approach, I can see how Ubiquiti could quickly have a number of different applications to run on the phones.

The SDN Controller will handle the management of the IP PBX, and will add an auto attendant, plug and play SIP setup, group calling, voice mail, alerts to email and centralized call logs.

We haven’t had a new entrant into the VoIP infrastructure space in quite some time. Ubiquiti Networks snuck up on the industry in the Wi-Fi space, and I certainly expect them to make some noise in the VoIP market. Much of their growth will likely be in the emerging markets, but I do expect to see some penetration in the U.S. market. I believe they’ll be an interesting vendor to watch as they look to gain ground in the VoIP market.


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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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