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Is it time for Canadian businesses to ditch telephone landlines?

While Canadians are increasingly ditching their telephone landlines in favour of mobile phones and cutting the cord on cable services (except when it comes to sports), there is one area of telecommunications life that has remained stubbornly status quo, namely the use of desktop landline phones by small to medium enterprise.
Largely, this is down to social convention. For credibility’s sake, clients expect to see a desk and a receptionist working beside a desktop phone, and perhaps even a fax machine.

But with many businesses embracing more agile workplace environments, and many questioning the need to have a fixed address at all, the telephone needs of business owners are becoming more fluid.
Rogers (TSX:RCI.A and TSX:RCI.B) (NYSE: RCI) has just launched Rogers Unison, an enterprise service that brings the features of traditional landline telephones to a mobile device, a move that the company claims will allow small businesses to save at least 40% of their monthly bill.

Rogers Unison, which the company describes as its attempt to “disrupt the unified communications space in Canada”, is available as of today to Canadian small businesses with an existing Share Everything for business plan.

“We’re bringing a North American first to Canadian small businesses by making it possible for them to use their mobile phone to connect their entire business and team, eliminating the need for dated desk phones,” said Nitin Kawale, President, Enterprise Business Unit, Rogers Communications. “We think it’s about time Canadian businesses have access to a mobile solution that not only lets them improve productivity and truly operate business on the go, but also realize significant cost savings.”
Although other companies have begun to offer unified communications solutions aimed at enterprise, they tend to be either app based or swap out one corded solution for another via a traditional wireline approach.

Rogers believes its Unison offering is different because it’s seamless, with both the technology and the billing integrated into a single experience.

“We built Rogers Unison in our wireless core, enabling mobile phones to be part of a phone system without needing an application,” said Rogers Communications director of product management Matthew Leppanen. “This means every call you make or receive from your mobile phone using either the wireless network or using Bluetooth will go through the cloud-based phone system. This will enable Canadian businesses to cut the cord on their traditional desk phones and go fully mobile.”

Current landlines cost an average of $25-50 per month, according to Rogers, adding that adoption of Unison would save the average business at least $300-600 per year.

Unison will allow Rogers customers to keep the landline phone number that’s already associated with their business, through a Dual Persona feature which also allows businesses to appear to have a local presence in multiple regions by adding and routing local numbers to their mobile device.

The Auto Attendant feature offers businesses a fully automated answering system that greets customers and directs calls through a directory structure, while the Hunt Groups customer service enhancement feature can route calls from one team member to the next until a live person answers.

The technology behind Rogers Unison is powered by global Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services provider BroadSoft, and Rogers plans to roll out Unison aimed at larger business and public sector clients later this year.

Rogers is the first telecommunications provider in North America to launch this type of solution, freeing up businesses to connect with customers and employees without being locked in to a location, increasing their productivity and saving money spent on landlines.

“Canadian businesses increasingly rely on mobile devices to conduct business and they need access to more solutions like Rogers Unison that give them the breadth of services traditionally only available on office desk phones” said Mark Goldberg, a telecom industry consultant and founder, Mark H. Goldberg & Associates.

“It’s good to see Rogers offer a solution that brings all the features of landline phones to mobile devices, delivering the opportunity for significant productivity gains to small businesses.”
Rogers is estimating that widespread adoption of solutions like Unison could generate nearly $1 billion per year, which could conceivably be reinvested in Canadian businesses.

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