article

Voice of the People

Posted: 11/2003

Voice of the People
Partners Push IP Telephony Into Mainstream


By Tara Seals

VoIP is cheaper and niftier than plain old
telephone service, and finally is gaining traction in the mainstream markets.
Many providers are asking channel partners to keep the momentum going.

Increasingly, medium-sized to large enterprises are turning to
IP-based voice services, says Tom Valovic, program director for IP telephony at
IDC. In general, the drivers for this are often tied to cost savings, he
says. The market is prepared to embrace managed voice services that eliminate
capital outlay, reduce operating expenses and complexity, and deliver the
advanced functionality and flexibility inherent in IP-based services.

That advanced functionality available with VoIP includes
unified messaging, e-mail integration and other whiz-bang features that appeal
to busy executives looking to drive efficiencies. For instance, SAVVIS
Communications Inc. just rolled out a suite of fully managed, network-based
voice application services for this market, available via the companys
channel partners. Besides the ability to make calls, the service includes voice
mail, 800 services, virtual PBX, auto-attendant/interactive voice response, fax,
conference calling, mobility integration, business continuity services and other
options. End users can customize their messaging services on the fly, at a Web
portal.

The outsourced voice application allows companies to implement
new voice networks or expand existing environments without capital investment,
and will lower maintenance, licensing and operating costs, says the company.

Taking a slightly different track, Volo Communications Inc.,
which markets its services via agents and resellers, has begun offering
unlimited calling with enhanced features, high-speed Internet access, VPN
services and other voice and data services via the local cable access network,
on a trial basis, to Florida consumers and business customers. The suite of new
products includes high-speed cable Internet access, corporate and residential
video streaming services, virtual private networks for telecommuting employees
and remote offices, storage and data recovery services and local/long-distance
calling.

The … mission is all about empowering service providers
and customers of all types to finally reap the inherent benefits of packet
communications technologies, says Shawn Lewis, Caerus president and CEO. Cable
companies, ISPs and other service providers can offer these services to their
customers through our Volo Communications subsidiary without having to go to the
expense of upfront investments, costly pre-certifications and lengthy systems
integrations.

Like other offers, customers have full control over their
choice of features, which can be changed as needed through a Web-based
interface. Customers will be able to perform online account management,
including Web-based voice mail retrieval, and view account activity.

Another growth area for VoIP is the residential market, where
VoIP is being positioned as the service of the people, the common folk: It
represents the opportunity, flexibility and freedom of choice Americans have
come to expect. Another rationale: Why pay the local incumbent vast quantities
of your hardearned cash for the same calls you make for pennies on the dollar?

Volo also offers unlimited residential local and long-distance
VoIP services and enhanced calling features. For $25 per month, customers can
buy a package of local and long distance with voice mail, call waiting, call
forwarding, caller ID, three-way calling, repeat dialing, call transfer, caller
ID block and virtual phone numbers. The services are accessible from a standard
PC, telephone or IP phone. Volo Communications also allows customers to select
their own area codes or keep their current numbers.

In addition, theglobe.com Inc.s new voiceglo service offers
two basic VoIP plans: voicegloSaver for $12.99 per month and voicegloUnlimited
for $32.99 per month. Both plans offer no additional charges for local calling
or for longdistance calls between voiceglo subscribers. Calls to non-subscribers
in the United States and Canada are 3 cents per minute with voicegloSaver, while
voicegloUnlimited lets subscribers place calls anywhere in the United States and
Canada for no additional fees.

voiceglo includes traditional features like voice mail, call
waiting, caller ID, three-way calling and call return (*69), and enhanced
features such as voice2email, Web directory services, Web-based account
management and real-time call activity. Users can use a broadband Internet
connection with their existing phones and a voiceglo adapter. Alternatively,
they can also use voiceglos USB phone, free with sign up, with an
Internet-connected PC or laptop, dial-up or broadband.

By allowing customers to choose between their existing
phones and our advanced USB phone, we provide flexibility that consumers have
never experienced before with a local or long-distance phone service, says
Michael Egan, chairman and CEO of theglobe.com.

theglobe.com launched its voiceglo agent program Aug. 15. We
are looking for partners who understand the new technology that is out there
today, especially VoIP, and who are eager to cash in on this new revenue
opportunity, says Ted Mooney, voiceglos marketing director. The products
will carry a residual income for individual sales, plus a bonus pool
distribution based on hitting certain goals each month. The company is, however,
limiting its distribution network to a select number.

Though its been around since the mid-1990s, VoIP until
recently did not enjoy widespread support among average Americans. Acceptance
was slow because of concerns about voice quality and technology readiness,
issues since addressed in a variety of ways. Volo, for instance, uses its
private IP backbone network for service, which offers MPLS services between
switches.

Part of it also may be blamed on pop culture: People who
remember when telegrams were common have a tough time accepting that their
teenage sons Internet gaming buddies are halfway around the world. However,
statistics show reluctance to be eroding. Frost & Sullivan predicts significant
growth is set to occur after this year as the pace of actual, full-scale
uptake and replacement starts escalating.

Accordingly, Primus Telecommunications Group Inc. has rolled
out a VoIP product for its agent partners to sell to the enterprise and consumer
markets. PC-to-Phone allows customers to call any domestic, international
or mobile number directly from their computers, while also surfing the Internet.
It is also one of the preferred global IP telephony providers for users of
Microsoft Messenger.

PRIMUS PC-to-Phone makes money for agents 24-7, says a
Primus spokeswoman. Through a link on agents Web sites to the PC-to-Phone
online order form, site visitors can sign up for the service, and agents are
automatically credited with the sale.

As for the future, the promise of convergence doesnt end
with VoIP. [IP telephony] will open up a whole new world of convergent
services for consumers and business alike, says Volos Lewis. True
convergence should apply to networks of all types, Internet, intranets,
telephony, cable and more, not just the technologies that provision them.

Links
Frost & Sullivan www.frost.com
IDC www.idc.com
Primus Telecommunications Group Inc. www.primustel.com
SAVVIS Communications Inc. www.savvis.net
TheGlobe.com www.theglobe.com
voiceglo www.voiceglo.com
Volo Communications Inc. www.volocommunications.com



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