VoIP Providers Get Turbos
By RICH TEHRANI
President & Group Editor-in-Chief
A good while back I learned about AYS, Voxilla's fully integrated provisioning, fulfillment and support resource for ITSPs. I was fascinated by the concept as I realized immediately that this could speed the time it takes for new ITSPs to get into the market. Furthermore I knew Marcelo Rodriguez the founder of Voxilla well and wanted to have him answer some questions about the service for me. I am sure that there is an update to this interview that Marcelo can provide me with and I promise to post much more rapidly the next time I speak with him.
Can this initiative lower costs for service providers?
[Marcelo Rodriguez] Absolutely. For a new outfit, AYS provides a turnkey operation allowing a provider to begin offering service without having to assemble a shipping operation, a team to handle device configuration manually, deployment of pricey provisioning servers and the pre-purchase of end-user device inventory. On an on-going basis, there are significant savings in shipping and handling costs and inventory costs. Also, providing end-user support, especially for a smaller operation, is often a cost-prohibitive endeavor. Through economies of scale, we're able to provide end user support (both pre- and post-sale) very affordably.
Though cost-savings is perhaps the most attractive AYS virtue today, there are many other advantages. For example, AYS allows a service provider to offer its customers any number of devices, similar to the way the cellular services offer a variety of phones. AYS also allows U.S.-based ITSPs to offer service in Canada (and later this year, Europe) without having to spend a penny in infrastructure abroad. And AYS is certainly very attractive to VoIP companies overseas who would like to be able to offer services in the US.
From your perspective, what sort of growth rates are you seeing in consumer VoIP adoption?
[Marcelo Rodriguez] If the rapid rise in sales at the Voxilla Store, the continued increase in traffic at Voxilla.com, and the increased use of the Voxilla forums by newcomers are any indication, consumer acceptance of VoIP is growing exponentially. There's no question that VoIP is moving from the early-adopter, tech-savvy consumer stage to a more general audience. There are installation issues, of course. We get dozens of calls each week from newcomers who find it difficult to get a device and service working with their home network and the myriad of routers out there (enough so that we developed a database of router configurations for AYS). But this is even more indication of growth.
Do you have plans to enter the enterprise market?
[Marcelo Rodriguez] We've already entered the enterprise market in a big way. And AYS is designed from the ground up to serve both small and large business. For example, AYS includes a web interface that allows a business with an in-house IP-based PBX to easily add new devices for its employees without having to actually configure the device itself. The process is entirely automated. A company representative fills in a simple form on our site, and either a new device is on its way to a new employee that very day, or a device the business has stored in its supply room is automatically provisioned as soon as it is connected. We've tested AYS with a number of PBXes and soft-switches and have not run into any problems.
In addition, the rapidly growing aftermarket using open source solutions such as Asterisk and SIPx can benefit greatly from AYS. Asterisk developers working on an installation, for example, can provide their customer with desktop devices without having to invest in inventory nor spend undue time manually configuring every desk station.
Who do you see as your primary competitors with this product?
[Marcelo Rodriguez] To the best of my knowledge, there is no fully integrated fulfillment/provisioning/support package available for service providers today that works across a large number of IP telephones and analog adaptors. We can support the entire line of Cisco, Grandstream, Leadtek, Linksys and Sipira SIP-based end user devices available today. We'll be adding others, including Polycom, shortly. This is not to say that we don't expect competition. Voxilla is now two years old and if we've learned one thing it is that everything we do eventually is replicated by someone else working in the space. We could simply say that imitation is flattering and leave it at that. But it keeps us on our toes and forces us to remember that customer service is king and that without continued innovation we fall behind. Voxilla as a whole certainly has plenty of a competition today, but no one comes close to our level of customer satisfaction. And we are always striving to keep it that way. As for innovation, the industry is changing dramatically each day and Paul Crick (Voxilla CTO) and his team built AYS in such a way so that it can easily adapt to change.
What do you make of the recent announcements in the VoIP market from Google and eBay?
[Marcelo Rodriguez] Though I'm by no means an expert on these matters, I must say I was personally surprised at the amount eBay spent in purchasing Skype. Still, the Skype buyout and Google's aggressive entry into VoIP certainly indicates that IP telephony is still exploding. All of us working in VoIP get the sense that we are continuing to grow each day. Google's and eBay's moves confirm it.
I'm personally quite pleased that Google and eBay have entered the VoIP space. Each of these companies is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, just minutes from Voxilla's main offices in San Francisco, and that's always a plus. But even more importantly, both companies are progressive and innovative. They seem to understand that business entails more than the bottom line and are committed to using their knowledge and imagination for a greater social good. While there is money to be made from VoIP, many of us are involved in the industry because we understand that IP communications has a huge impact in the world we live in. VoIP helps shrink the world by obliterating national boundaries that artificially keep people from different nations apart. It is reducing costs in such a way that immigrants to the United States and Americans living abroad are able to stay in touch with their families and friends. I'm pretty confident that, for the most part, the folks who lead Google and eBay are aware of the impact they are having on the world and will help foster this kind of positive change.
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC. In addition he is the Chairman of the world's best attended VoIP event, Internet Telephony Conference & Expo.
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