Voice over IP has been a slow starter in the residential/small office market.
"The VOIP-in-the-home market hasnt been much of a business," acknowledged Dan Schwab, vice president of marketing at D&H Distributing Co. Inc. He said VOIP primarily has gained traction among large enterprises with the appropriate infrastructure to roll out the technology.
The home market, in contrast, has been hampered by a lack of VOIP awareness. And concerns over power failures and 911 access have put off those consumers familiar with the technology, Schwab added.
But Schwab believes resellers can play a role in changing VOIPs home prospects. The company earlier this month expanded its distribution pact with Zoom Technologies Inc. to include that companys ZoomTel VOIP line, which includes the X5v and VoIP Plus products. Those products—local-area network gateways with integrated VoIP—let home users make local and long-distance calls via the Internet using a regular telephone, according to Zoom.
Zooms Teleport feature toggles between conventional phone service and VoIP service. Teleport automatically switches to conventional phone service for 911 dialing or when power fails, thus addressing consumer worries. "It basically defaults to your regular land line," Schwab said.
Zoom cites distribution as the most efficient way to get VOIP capabilities into the home and small office market. "Zoom would have a lot of difficulty handling the volume of transactions … from a broad base of smaller retailers and installers," said Terry Manning, Zooms vice president of sales and marketing.
He believes Zooms VOIP lineup will provide those companies with an opening into an emerging market. "Its a new technology and, as such, it is an opportunity for people," he said.
Manning said Zooms VOIP offering is well-suited for residential broadband users—a rapidly growing group. Strategy Analytics, a Boston-based market research and consulting firm, earlier this year predicted that the number of U.S. homes using broadband will grow from 25 million to 33.5 million during the course of 2004.
Schwab said both large-format and local retailers will sell the home VOIP technology. But he also foresees considerable activity among local resellers who have been selling wireless networks in the home market. Those resellers already have been linking home theater, security and other systems into home networks. VOIP, Schwab noted, "gives them another feature that ties into the network."
Schwab said he expects home networking resellers to readily get up to speed on Zooms VOIP gear. But for resellers seeking additional background, D&H will provide an online vendor training presentation on Zooms VOIP products.
D&H and Zoom believe theyve hit upon a large and largely untapped market. Is the home VOIP market finally ready to take off? Resellers may soon be able to supply the answer to that question.