Unified communication is a well-defined approach to combine various forms of digital communications to promote collaboration. The convergence of voice, video, chat, file transfer, and other types of communications improves productivity, enticing CIOs to embrace new unified communication strategies with the aid of vendors like Cisco, Microsoft, and IBM or by partnering with third parties such as MeetingZone.

The demand for collaboration continues to grow and according to TechNavio analysts, unified communication in 2015 will continue to grow at a CAGR of 14.08 percent right through 2019. What’s driving this growth is increased adoption of cloud computing resources and improvements in the telecom and cellular infrastructure. Here are just some of the trends that will shape unified communication in 2015.

Broadband and the Cloud

Cloud service providers are seeing double-digit growth in both IP telephony and unified communication. For the first time, cloud computing is outpacing premise-based unified communication systems. Experts believe that most unified communication in 2015 is going to look like a hybrid solution that includes cloud and on-premise solutions, especially as more organizations integrate unified communication with voice over IP (VoIP).

In the U.S., unified communication in 2015 will be driven by Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Wireless telecom providers are looking to retire their old 3G networks in favor of wideband systems that support high-definition voice and unified communication. In the U.K., Vodafone and other carriers are working to build their own VoLTE infrastructure to deliver new services to business users and consumers.

Lowering Barriers to Collaboration

CIOs are becoming more comfortable with allowing mobile devices to access network resources and we are seeing more organizations implementing policies regarding bring-your-own-device (BYOD). As a result, users can access unified communication resources using their portable computers, tablets, and smartphones from virtually anywhere.

U.S. cable providers have been adding free wireless hotspots for their broadband customers. The result is an increase in the use of handheld devices for unified communication, and more voice and video calls are moving to cable broadband from telecom systems.

Video collaboration also is on the rise. According to the latest research from Frost & Sullivan, audio conferencing made up 66 percent of the market in 2013, but is expected to drop to 51 percent of the market by 2019 as web conferencing climbs to more than 25 percent. Video conferencing, especially hosted video conferencing, will reach a CAGR in the double digits before 2019. The European Conferencing Services market alone is expected to grow from $1.78 billion in 2013 to $2.58 billion by 2019.

Unified communication in 2015 also will be fueled by increased adoption of web real-time communications (WebRTC). Experts predict that both Apple and Microsoft will avoid adding WebRTC support to their browsers, but that demand won’t wait for native browsers to catch up. Implementation of new WebRTC gateways both on-premise and in the cloud, as well as more session border controllers are already eliminating interoperability issues.

And then there is recent announcement of Skype for Business. Microsoft has incorporated Skype support into its Lync unified communication solution for Microsoft Office and is calling its next release Skype for Business, using the familiar Skype voice/video/chat interface as the new unified communication platform for Microsoft Office 360.

So what we are seeing for unified communication in 2015 is a convergence of consumer and enterprise technology to enable better collaboration. More hosted services are emerging, the infrastructure is improving, and even consumer services such as Skype are becoming part of enterprise collaboration. It’s going to be a great year for unified communication.