POTS to PANS: VoIP Offers for SMEs Grow to Meet Opportunity

VoIP will take us from Plain Old Telephone Services (POTS), to a world of Pretty Advanced New Services (PANS), to borrow a phrase from Leapstone Systems Inc.’s Paul Shaneck. And, small businesses will be one of the most fruitful target segments. Whereas enterprise early adopters dominated early VoIP with almost 80 percent of VoIP revenue in 2003, the SMB business segment will grow to 15 percent of revenue in 2004, then stretch to 18 percent in 2005, according to ATLANTIC-ACM. By 2009, ATLANTICACM predicts that the SMB market will expand to capture almost a quarter of the service revenue for VoIP.

Whereas most large carriers could work with equipment providers to offer enterprise solutions, SMB offers have been developed with 2004, or expected 2005, launches. AT&T Corp. is getting mileage with small businesses from its consumer CallVantage program, as long as the business’ broadband can work across firewalls and server configurations. Approximately 20 percent of Vonage Holdings Corp.’s customer base is SOHO customers, served via an offering differentiated from consumer services by a free fax line and more minutes. Soon, Vonage will offer an SME solution through a VAR channel targeting companies with up to 24 lines.

MCI Inc.’s MCIAdvantage offering provides hosted and on-site solutions for a range of companies. They offer three-to-four types of SIP phones and an IAD device to connect analog phones, thus providing a range of services for different-sized businesses.

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Sprint Corp. also offers VoIP products, with its Time Warner Inc. relationship a strong example of partnerships. For businesses, they offer a range of services to integrate the historic wired and wireless systems, enabling full customization for users.

Global Crossing Ltd. provides wholesale VoIP services including on-net transport and outbound services for carriers. Global Crossing recently has announced the addition of enterprise, toll-free and DID services, with plans for managed services in winter of 2005.

The company supports resellers providing end-user services, including BroadVoice, a provider of unlimited international services for small businesses as well as consumers. Another Global Crossing customer is PointOne Inc., which now offers fully hosted IP telephony solutions targeting the SMB as well as heavy use consumers. The company’s turnkey ‘Starpoint’ service is sold through broadband providers including ISPs, cable and wireless players and offers Class 5 features.

BellSouth Corp. was the first RBOC to announce small business services with a late 2003 discussion of example VoIP offers in medium businesses. Verizon Communications Inc. has offers with premise-based equipment, partnered with the equipment providers, intending to ease the challenges of installations and maintenance for small businesses.

Currently, offers are categorized according to technology type and where it resides. Differentiation is too often weighted toward price with laundry lists of features from each provider. As marketers learn which features appeal to which segments, the winning companies will be the ones with the right applications for targeted needs.

Dr. Judy Reed Smith is CEO of ATLANTICACM, a research consultancy. She can be reached at


AT&T Corp.
BellSouth Corp.
Global Crossing Ltd.
MCI Inc.
Sprint Corp.
Time Warner Inc.
Verizon Communications Inc.
Vonage Holdings Corp.

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