article

RESELLER CHANNEL: Special Delivery

Posted: 9/2003

Special Delivery
Reselling Hosted Voice Mail Addresses Initial Demand for IP
Functionality

By Tara Seals

Rebranding IP voice mail service

is
a scalable way for service providers to introduce customers to IP capabilities.

UNE-P player Epicus Inc., for instance, is licensing and
rebranding Prosodie Interactive Inc.s unified messaging technology to power
its Freedom Messenger service. The private-label agreement allowed Epicus to
customize the Prosodie platform and add new layers to what was just vanilla
RBOC-based voice mail. Freedom Messenger now offers message notification and
retrieval via phone, Internet, enabled PDA device, pager or e-mail. Freedom
Messenger also includes a one-number find-me/follow-me service.

We had a goal early on to build a brand and create power
with a bundle, says John Wind, vice president of marketing and strategy at
Epicus. The goal was to wean off product dependence on the RBOCs.
With this, we own the access and the customer, and its easier to do product
refreshes, rather than just taking and reselling what the Bells offer.

Its pretty clear to us that its not the first-tier
service providers, but the second and third tiers … that are feeling a demand
for value-added services, says Rick Favro, CEO for hosted voice mail provider Pagoo Inc.
The consumer is knowledgeable now in looking for a value-add when they make a
buying decision. So from the providers standpoint its a good idea to have
these other features into the commodity mix.

Pagoo recently signed an agreement with XO Communications Inc.
for XO to be its network backbone provider. Company executives say XO may cut a
resale deal to bundle Pagoos hosted voice mail service with its XOptions
services. However, for now, most of Pagoos wholesale business is made up of
regional ISPs. Other targets to resell the service are rural LECs, VARs and even
online dating services that want to offer anonymous voice mail. Resellers can
private label the service or offer it under the Pagoo brand.

As with most hosted voice mail offers, Pagoos voice mail
has enhanced capabilities. It offers a number of ways for the end user to be
notified of the messages and options for handling them. The voice mail is
visual, so users see the caller ID, time and date, and with a click can play the
ones that are the most important.

Its active, so we push the messages to you. We notify
you in the way you choose, if thats text messaging, or e-mail, or a different
phone, says Favro. This takes the burden off you to call in and see if you
have any messages.

Earlier this year uReach Technologies Inc. launched the
Enhanced Voice Mail Services Program for the reseller market. The program
targets rural carriers, CLECs and other second-tier telecom resellers that want
to offer customers a one-voice-mailbox service for receiving personal and
business messages from wireless and landline phones.

The company says it offers operating efficiencies as well as
product differentiation for its resale partners. Because the uReach offer is a
hosted service, the resellers incur no capital investment, reduced operations
expense and no maintenance costs, all of which reduces the total cost of
ownership.

[Hosted voice mail] service is ideally suited for small
carriers and the reseller market. With no capital investment and quick time to
market, resellers can provide their customers best-in-class services,
explains Krishnamurty Kambhampati, president and CEO for uReach.

Sylantro Systems Corp. also offers a platform for enhanced IP
voice applications, including hosted voice mail with enhanced features. Sylantros
voice mail includes productivity applications such as visual voice mail users
can access from anywhere on the globe, where they can see messages, pick one
from the box and play just that one, and not have to play all the ones before
it. Typically, network operators would deploy such platforms into their networks
in order to offer services. However, Sylantro saw an opportunity in a wholesale model for
smaller players.

The services are [turnkey, so service providers] dont
have to rebuild them, Laura Thompson, vice president of corporate marketing at
Sylantro, explains. They can extend them and customize them and rebrand them.
But we also have some Sylantro-powered service providers that will actually do
the branding for other service providers.

For example, smaller resellers who dont have the money or
the technical resources to deploy Sylantro infrastructure can buy the hosted
voice mail and other services from a Sylantro-powered service provider, such as
GoBeam Inc. or Telverse Communications Inc., which will manage and host
the application and brand it for the reseller.

Thats been quite successful for us, says Thompson.
We felt that was a good way to scale the company. We still sell direct to a
lot of the larger service providers and carriers but there are a lot of small
folks that want to get into the business too and this just sort of made sense in
terms of helping these guys scale the market overall.

Hosted voice mail also presents the reseller community with a
migration path to bigger and better sales. UReach, for example, offers end-user
migration to full unified messaging, with a universal mailbox for sending,
receiving and managing voice mail, e-mail and fax messages from wireless phones,
landline phones, wireless PDAs or PCs, through the Internet. Sylantro offers
migration to full IP PBX capabilities, such as the ability to redirect calls to
any phone, automatically schedule meetings, share documents and perform
directory lookups.

Hosted voice mail is just one aspect of what we can do
were providing a whole suite of applications, or what people sometimes refer
to as hosted PBX applications, says Thompson. But a lot of people arent ready necessarily to throw out their traditional PBX because
they havent written it down yet, but theyre looking to get some of these
new, expanded applications that you just cant do with traditional PBXs.

Thus, an opportunity is for the end-user company to keep its
existing PBX, and simply offer employees a different IP-based voice mail that
can be hosted so it has an entire package of unified messaging tied in.

Thats a good starting point, says Thompson. Then
the reseller can start to get the customer excited, so eventually the customer
wants gets rid of the PBX and have all these IP PBX capabilities. So its a
good selling strategy.

In terms of end-user interest in such bells and whistles,
Probe Research LLC says the market is taking off. The firm forecasts a tripling
of North American revenue for businessrelated IP voice services between 2002 and
2003. While VoIP virtual private network (VPN) services will continue to grow
steadily over the next several years, Probe says revenue from hosted and managed
IP PBX offerings have surpassed those from VoIP VPN and will make up the bulk of
business revenue.

You have to separate the hosted voice mail opportunity into
a couple of different markets, says Pagoos Favro. Our research has shown theres a
lot of opportunity in small business markets for next-generation voicemessaging
services. Put yourself in the shoes of an owner/operator of a small business and
youd like to have something beyond what you can get from the local phone
company. If youre 20-50 employees and maybe a couple of locations, youre
starting to look at IP Centrex, maybe a small PBX, should I even go as far as
getting an IP PBX? Then the big question is, hey, where do I get the technical
resources to maintain that? So, hosted voice mail and enhanced applications are
a natural.

Sylantros Thompson agrees. Theres a lot of benefit to
the hosted model and because its browser-based, people can access it from
home or a kiosk or wherever they may be, she says. A lot of people feel that its an all or nothing
undertaking, but they can go in baby steps and start to incorporate some of
these hosted technologies without having to throw out all of their systems. You
can also have a hybrid model where maybe at headquarters youre keeping the
PBX, but at the branch offices where you just dont have people to manage
those key systems you switch out completely and you go to a hosted model.

Links
Epicus Inc. www.epicus.com
GoBeam Inc. www.gobeam.com
ICG Communications www.icgcomm.com
Pagoo Inc. www.pagoo.com
Probe Research LLC www.probegrp.com
Prosodie Interactive Inc.
www.prosodieinteractive.com

Sylantro Systems Corp. www.sylantro.com
Telverse Communications Inc.
www.telverse.com

uReach Technologies Inc.
www.ureachcorp.com

XO Communications Inc. www.xo.com


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