Fonality Lowers Voice Call Costs for SMBs

Fonality offers a new open-source hosted IP PBX and IP-based calling service.

Open-source IP PBX provider Fonality on Aug. 13 will do its part to drive down the cost of voice calls for small businesses when it launches a new hybrid hosted IP PBX offering and IP-based calling service.

The combination of Fonalitys new trixbox Pro business phone system and trixNet in-network calling service allows small businesses with between five to 500 employees to make free VOIP (voice over IP) calls and use such features as auto attendant, music on hold, call hunting, e-mail and Outlook integration for free.

While the Standard Edition of trixbox Pro is free, a more full-featured version of the offering that requires a monthly fee delivers paging and intercom features as well as conference bridging and "things bigger businesses need," said Fonality CEO Chris Lyman in Culver City, CA.

Both versions, based on open-source Asterisk, are aimed primarily at computer consultants, systems integrators and VARs who can use the software to expand the range of products and services they provide.

"Say youre computer consultant in Saskatchewan. You can download (trixnet Pro) for free, burn it to a CD, install it on a server, and it becomes your PBX. They you go buy IP phones and our software detects them, configures them and you have a PBX running in your business. Its slick," said Lyman.

The software automatically detects the type of server hardware it is installed on and configures it for the IP PBX functions. At the same time, Fonality also includes the ability to automatically detect the type of IP phones selected and then configures the phones – eliminating a complex step for users.

"And we also built a branding portal into it, so that consultants can brand it to look like their own software," Lyman added.

Customers using the trixbox Pro software can access Fonalitys new hybrid hosted trixNet in-network calling service to make free calls to any other trixNet user from both IP and analog phones.

"We created a lookup service in our data center in (Los Angeles). It looks at the phone number you are calling. If it sees (the number youre calling is for) a member of trixNet, it tries to make the call for free and go point-to-point. If it doesnt work or the quality is not good, it goes back to (a toll call)," described Lyman. The system determines call quality by sending out a test packet round trip and deems quality good if the packet returns within one second.

Unlike Skype or Vonage, trixNet does not require users to use its telecom service to get the free call, Lyman added.


To read more about Fonalitys Asterisk distributions, click here.

Tennessee Business Communication Services, which works with Fonalitys existing PBXtra offering, likes the freedom to now be able to purchase and provision the server hardware and phones for the system, according to Sean Wilder, sales director at the reseller in Nashville, Tenn.

"By provisioning our own hardware, we will be able to implement solutions and provide repairs for our customers much more quickly than before, when we had to wait for Fonality to provide parts. We are also able to source the hardware at a lower cost so that we can price Trixbox Pro more competitively than PBXtra," he said.

At the same time, the hybrid hosted model also gives small business users a "much higher level of support than the typical traditional PBX," Wilder feels. "Fonalitys support includes free upgrades, remote monitoring, remote system backup and phone support.

Customers or resellers can administer their system from any Internet connected computer—no VPN or dial-in access required. Running call reports on the server is also offloaded on Fonalitys data center so that the local server isnt taxed too heavily," added Wilder.

Fonalitys hybrid hosted model is unique in the industry, believes Rebecca Swensen, research analyst in VOIP services at International Data in Framingham, MA.

Lyman also believes that trixNet and trixbox Pro are unique in their ability to work with a variety of different server hardware and IP phones. "It was a tremendous effort to get this to be hardware agnostic. Its not sexy, but it is very utilitarian," he said.

Although the quality of the free calls are dependent on a network infrastructure that Fonality does not control, Lyman is confident that carriers networks are up to the task – although he said they werent that way two years ago.

Swensen agreed. "Carriers have been focused on building out their infrastructure (to support new IP-based services)," she said. Both trixbox Pro and trixNet are available on Aug. 13. The Enterprise Edition of trixbox Pro is priced at $9.99 per user employee per month.


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