Bandwidth.com Helps SMBs Find VoIP

by Colin C. Haley

The company unveils an online tool that tells SMBs if their network will support business-level VoIP.

Bandwidth.com has unveiled a new tool to help small and medium businesses (SMBs) determine if their company's network is ready for VoIP.

The privately held network services provider's Web-based VoIP test checks ports, bandwidth availability and latency — key elements for moving voice and data onto one network.

"It tells you whether your network is optimized for business-level VoIP," said Henry Kaestner, Bandwidth's CEO. He makes a distinction between consumer-level VoIP service, like Vonage, for example, and business-level VoIP, which offers many more features such as four-digit, interoffice calling and unified messaging.

Another big differentiator is the network speed required to maintain business-level VoIP. Kaestner said that SMBs require a high-speed, reliable connection that's stable so they can take advantage of demanding online applications such as hosted CRM from companies like salesforce.com and hosted data backup services, in addition to the VoIP service.

How fast? Kaestner said business-level VoIP requires a T1 line. "The typical price for a T1 line used to be about $750 a month," he said. "Today, the price has dropped to $525 per month, which makes it much more affordable to small business."

Bandwidth's new tool launch follows a report by Savatar, a Boston consulting firm, blasting large VoIP providers for failing to serve SMB customers.

Savatar found that many SMBs are interested in the savings and efficiency associated with VoIP but have trouble getting more information from providers' Web sites, sales staffers and customer service representatives.

That said, a number of VoIP providers — from telecoms, cable companies and Internet giants — are beginning to pay more attention to the market.

Two recent examples: Qwest is teaming with Microsoft and Vonage is partnering with TowerStream with services for the 1.8 million SMBs.

Kaestner is not concerned that well-heeled public and venture-backed companies have turned their attention to the SMB VOIP space.

"It's validation of the space," Kaestner said. "I don't spend much time focused on what Qwest or Vonage is doing. We'll continue to give SMBs what they want."

He added that the company has earmarked nearly all of the $4.75 million it raised from private investors last month to improving its VoIP services for SMBs.

Based in Cary, N.C., Bandwidth provides voice and data services to SMBs in every state thanks to its relationships with network wholesalers, such as AT&T, Level 3 and MCI.

Lauren Simonds contributed to this story.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Oct 19th 2005
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