VoIP For The SMB

Thursday Aug 4th 2005 by Colin C. Haley
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Taking on the Baby Bells, Vonage pilot tests a VoIP service aimed at small businesses.

Small business owners looking to cut communication costs may not have long to wait now that Vonage is beta-testing a new Voice over IP service for small and medium businesses (SMBs).

"There's a huge opportunity here," Mark Lyons, Vonage vice president of value added reseller (VAR) sales, said. "A huge chunk of the market doesn't have enough scale to receive discounts from large telcos."

Vonage Business Plus, which is aimed at companies with 10 to 100 employees, is in trials with about 75 businesses. It will be formally rolled out in the fourth quarter this year in the United States and likely a quarter later in Canada.

The service will be sold and installed through VARs, such as independent broadband operators, telephony systems vendors and systems integrators. It will compete against business packages from Verizon and SBC.

In recent months, Vonage has recruited 80 VARs for the program, including wireless broadband providers. "We've grown to a pretty good size for the pilot," Lyons said. "Eighty to 100 [resellers] is fine for 2005."

Besides resellers, Vonage has lined up network equipment that is more robust than its consumer gear. Vonage will offer voice gateways from Cisco, Quintum and AudioCodes and IP PBX gear from Epygi and Allworx, Lyons said.

Pricing for the equipment and the service itself are not yet set, although savings over the Baby Bells will be a major selling point, Lyons said.

Business Plus features will mirror Vonage's consumer offerings, including flat-rate calling and low international rates, Lyons said.

The strategy for signing up more business customers was drafted last year. Currently, only about 20 percent of the Edison, New Jersey-based company's 600,000 subscribers are businesses, Vonage spokesman Mitchell Slepian said.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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