Bigger VOIP Game
Covad aims its service higher, at businesses worth at least a T11.54 Mbpsof voice and data or above. Connectivity also may be through SDSL, which runs at a similar 1.5 Mbps or 756 Kbps, according to Ed Mattix, the companys vice president of corporate communications. Covad sets up the customer through dealer integrators, who install multichannel IP adapters to VOIPify existing analog phones, or install a variety of IP phones. It also has an offering, called PBXi, for companies that have their own PBX. The benefit here is not only cost savings per minute through VOIP, but the ability to link up multiple sites of PBXes and remote workers through Covads softswitch. This can unify a multisite, multi-PBX-vendor enterprise with one centralized voice mail, auto attendant, unified messaging, four-digit dial plan, call-forwarding option and transfers. It can connect remote solo offices over SDSL to function as an IP Centrex extension, with full Dashboard functionality."Covad is going after enterprise customers from pretty small to pretty big," says Jeff Stern, a former GoBeam exec who now consults for Covad. On the small end, that includes customers on SDSL, which goes down to 756 kbps. Doesnt that follow the BYOB (bring-your-own-broadband) model, I ask? No, says Stern, and heres where Covads status as last CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) standing gives it an edge. Dating back to its data LEC days, Covad has DSL termination equipment in more than 2,000 telco central offices spanning 35 states and most major U.S. metro markets. Just as important, Covads DSL access isnt subject to the higher rates that RBOCs (regional Bell operating companies) are due to start charging their competitors, due to recent FCC (Federal Communications Commission) backtracking from the Telecom Act of 1996. In other words, Covad isnt over the same barrel thats forcing AT&T to retreat from local service. And why isnt it subject to those prohibitive rates? Because what Covad gets from the RBOCs is only "dry copper," or the last-mile physical lines themselves, without the switching or DSL hardware. These UNE-Ls (unbundled network element lines) are not subject to the same RBOC charges as UNE-Ps, which are unbundled network element plus platform. All this allows Covad to control the IP connectivity end to end, even at DSL scale. "Once youve got that network in place, you can be aggressive and go after markets that the RBOCs arent going after at this time," says Jon Arnold, a VOIP carrier analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "The RBOCs have been trialing VOIP but havent been pressured yet by startups the way Vonage, etc., have got them all worried in the consumer sector. Covads generally going after businesses with 10 lines or more, anywhere up to a few hundred." Next Page: Up-and-coming rivals.
Click here to read about how some big-name players are raising consciousness about VOIPs capabilities.