Entrepreneurs flock in
The extremely low economic barrier to entering the VOIP delivery business has lured hundreds of entrepreneurs, who are continually adding and enhancing services. SimpleTelecom Inc., a Reno, Nev., provider of wholesale VOIP services for carriers, last month launched SimpleConnect, a VOIP service for businesses that have bought or plan to buy VOIP-capable PBX systems. The marketing strategy emphasizes a low-cost monthly contract, with calls over most of the globe priced at 1.7 cents a minute. 1st Rate Mortgage Group has been testing SimpleConnect for about six weeks, said Ethan Lee, IT director at the mortgage company in Los Angeles. Like Micro Office, the company tried using Vonages service but found it didnt adequately support call volume. With one low-end IP PBX and about 20 employees, almost the entire staff can call simultaneously, Lee said.Apart from cost savings, SimpleConnect offers a variety of features that can be managed easily from the Web, Lee said. Supervisors at 1st Rate can monitor sales agents based on their call logs, and a number of data applications can be easily integrated with calls. "You can click to dial, and your CRM [customer relationship management] is basically a mouse click away," Lee said. Equipment makers are trying to make it easier for carriers to offer more business-quality VOIP services next year. The carrier VOIP equipment market rose 69 percent from a year ago, according to a study released by Infonetics Research Inc. last month. High growth in the market for voice application servers, session border controllers and softswitches suggests that service providers are investing in equipment that enables them to deliver more new services, according to the Boston-based research company. In October, Avaya Inc. rolled out an offering that lets service providers offer business-grade VOIP and contact center applications on a usage-based monthly fee. The technology aims to make it easier for providers to give midsize companies the kind of communications services that large enterprises enjoy. Covad
Service Virtual PBX Service
Voice, Internet, management console
Visual voice mail, call logs, find me/follow me
Conferencing, instant messaging, collaboration
Service Hosted IP Communication Service
Voice, Internet, Web-based portal
Click-to-call, find me/follow me
Conferencing, unified messaging, plug and play
Service OneFlex Hosted VOIP (Basic package)
Voice, Internet, online dashboard, call logs
Click-to-call, voice mail, abbreviated dialing
Caller ID, call waiting, hold, block, transfer, forwarding
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"You can be any-size company and have enterprise-level communications tools," Lee said. "But after about 18 people are using the phone at once, I become a little bit worried."