Using the Internet to send faxes sounded like a good idea a few years ago, but its take up is likely to fall well short of expectations, according to analysts Schema.
Schema predicts that while the market for IP fax services will keep growing over the next five years, many users will stop sending faxes and instead use email.
"The idea of IP fax is being rapidly overtaken by email," said Robin Duke-Woolley, senior analyst at Schema. "Yes there is a market, but it's not going to develop as service providers would have liked."
Some operators have spent a long time developing IP fax services. Uunet announced a worldwide IP fax service in 1997, but the service is only just ready to launch in the UK. (see Newswire 6 January 1998)
"In the meantime, everyone has picked up email," said Duke-Woolley. "IP fax will be nothing like as big as expected."
Uunet says it agrees that for many communications, computer to computer communications will disolve the need for a fax router.
"However there is a very big market in the meantime," said Richard Woods, PR manager at Uunet in the UK.
Financial services and legal organisations are both industries who won't accept anything other than a fax for some communications, said Woods.
"There's a lot of users of that sort that will be there for a long time," he added.
Uunet admits that IP fax won't be appeal to all users but expects heavy usage among its target audience - large corporates on its managed IP network.
"When it was first launched in the US, the view was always that it was for large corporations with dedicated requirements," said Woods.
Schema forecasts that revenue from European IP telephony services will reach $150 million next year, with around $50 million coming from IP fax services. By 2005, IP telephony will generate almost $1 billion, with $400 million coming from IP fax.
Schema's figure are contained in a new report due next month, called 'Opportunities for UTS' (unified telecoms services).
The launch of Uufax in the UK is "imminent" according to Woods.
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