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Posts from June 2004

App to Block Voice Spam

A few days ago I mentioned how IVR service in the field of customer support and cupport in general would be bolstered in many ways by VoIP. Today, the San Mateo County Times writes about Telemarketing and VoIP.

My question is, if VoIP is unregulated does that mean the telemarketers can have their way with us like in the old days? According to the article, a company Qovia has a way to block what they label Voice Spam.

That to me is one tasty, Voice appetizer, I mean application.

Red Herring On Skype

Not much new insight about Skype on . The feature on Skype's founder and its premise pretty much replays what the better bloggers have been posting.

About the only really meaningful comment is that SKYPE will have to start spending money to attract customers to their Skype out service.


Skype Out Now Live in USA

I activated SkypeOut today so I can test and see how well it works. Being that it was too early to call anyone, I will wait and try an international call later tonight and see how it sounds.

The activation was very straightforward. All it took was a credit card. The bill in Euros and they clear in Luxembourg so my guess is USA customers will not only pay a surcharge on the difference in Euros to dollars but also in the credit card fee associated with International coversions.

The other element of making a call is to remember to use the + or 00 when dialing. For someone who travels internationally, it's a no brainer. For those who never do, it may take some getting used to.

MovieFone, AOL and Level3

MovieFone, which provides movie listings by web site and phone across the USA will be using the Level3 inbound calling VoIP platform to make it easy, and now less costly when consumers want to know "what's playing."

I expect this to be the first of a flurry of announcement by Level3 and other VoIP carriers that signify the shift to VoIP for service related calling. Airlines, hotels, car rental companies, pharmcuitical formularies for pharmacy drug plans and others, espcially, those using Interactive Voice Response (IVR), will take advantage of the cost savings and ease of deployment now available to them from companies like Level3 that can both manage their services and provide them a softswitch enabled network.

AT&T Turns Lemons Into Lemonade

AT&T is taking the hits now, to be better for the long haul. This is how I read today’s announcement about reducing earnings. The reason for the announcement has to do with the concept of guidance, which is what public companies either do as practice to tell investors what's going on, or choose not to do and let analysts do that for them.

But getting beyond what's required to prevent any more MCI Worldcon's or Enrobs in our publicly traded world, one has to look more deeply.

1) AT&T is shedding a high cost operation in states where they either have no real heavy penetration or where the competition has already picked off the customer. Andy says, why fight with old technology when you have newer more profitable ways to do it with CallVantage.

2) AT&T has CallVantage and now can reallocate resources to sell more of it and drive adoption. Why? Because VoIP is a hot commodity these days and by adding subscribers there, versus shedding them elsewhere their churn will be less overall and their costs of both acquisition and ability to maintain will be less. Remember, CallVantage is so simple to use and administer for users, like Vonage is, that the frictionless nature of its business translates to lower costs.

3) Less Unions. Sorry to all those who are in the CWA, but this also means no need for installers and repairmen. That means, retirement. Smart installers and repairmen have already gotten into the home and small business networking and moonlight doing that. Expect more to move in that area. That all lowers the AT&T overhead in areas where they were still unionized.

4) More synergy. As a CLEC other than billing and the core network, there wasn't a lot of synergy. If anything the CLEC side of AT&T competes with the VoIP and soon to be alive wireless business. While those two co-exist nicely, the CLEC is threatened with being made obsolete. Do they want to be the aberration or the harbinger of things to come? My vote is with the harbinger.

Xten Tracks Your Activity

Jeff Pulver revealed that Xten knows when you use its software to make VoIP calls.

While I don't know how much of a privacy issue this raises, since the phone company knows each time you make a call currently, I am wondering what security issues that raises, based on the data being transmitted.

For example, do they know the IP address you're located at? Do they know the duration of the call? What number (sip or pstn) that was dialed? What information are they collecting? Or is it simply, a becon that hits a counter saying "another call has been made using XTen software." The latter is not a big deal in my mind and equal to a hit counter that no one sees on web sites.

P.S. Xten now has a Mac client too that works specifically with Vonage.

Oh Canada..Oh Cable ...Oh Marketing

More viewpoints about the adoption, or slow progress VoIP will have in Canada is coming to light, this time from the National Post of Canada.

While the stats have been beaten to death here and elsewhere, there is no faulting the reporter who clearly identified what VoIPWatch has been saying for a long time. Marketing and education about VoIP's product differentiation needs to be ratcheted up a few notches by the VoIP brands, and this applies to both USA and Canada, as well as in other countries each player will enter.

Right now brand for almost all the next gen carriers is logo, announcement and pricing driven. Not one has really stepped up and begun the yeoman like responsibility to educate the marketplace about VoIP outside of Vonage and AT&T. Vonage started with "it's available here" and "it saves you money." AT&T has followed with "we're now available here too" and has been educating the media with "we're not only here, we're better. Try us and see" using demos. They've also done a better PR job because their PR lead Gary Morganstern has been around the game 25 years (almost as long as me, but I'm likely younger as I started doing media relations at age 14 and was a reporter on radio at the same time). Anyway, Morganstern has done an incredible job of communicating the AT&T legacy into the mix, but other than a few ME.....none have understood the importance of owning your own network, tier one peering relationships, call quality being maintained by the ATA--because all telephone adapters have not been created equal.

My first call with Morganstern revolved around "what makes CallVantage different" and we focused on the network aspects first. That's brand synergy. It wasn't until we went through the plain, even grand ma could understand language, that Morganstern went into the services offerings to me, highlighting the product differentiations between CV and others, and relating some of the pluses to what Webley, my unified messaging service of choice, has to offer, that are now available to me via CallVantage. That created an economic advantage.

Building brand begins with PR. Educating the buyers is executed by PR. Driving awareness is an advertising function, built on PR. Selling in falls to a sales team that understands how to overcome objections. The big hurdle for so many of the VoIP carriers is building brand and getting customers, and those two are a never ending circle in many ways.

Given so little salesmanship has been employed in the past few years (i.e. relationships with customers, lack of true "account executives" until business reaches a certain level, lack of local offices, etc. all these companies have a big issue establishing true relationships that are not virtual and devoid of the human touch.

If one looks at why cable television became so successful, it was the establishment of "local" storefront offices in every community they serve. If one looks at mobile phones, especially brands like Verizon and Nextel, it is their store front, company owned locations which blazed trails and built both brand and customer point of contact. But the phone companies always were faceless, over the phone business. They did it very well, because, well, that's the only way they did business, other than a few business offices where you could pay your bill or present some documentation.

With VoIP the cell carriers and the cable companies have legs up right now over the VoIP pure plays. They have the brand already established, they have the customers. They have the storefronts. And they have the billing relationships.

Cablevision, the New York City metro area cable provider already has 100,000 subscribers to its VoIP service, since October. A call, the first one made by Bob Cox, editor of The National Debate which he made to me to check out the quality of the service was as pristine as any call the two of us have ever had. He signed up for the $90.00 bundle. All three services (two of which he already had) cable, high speed internet and now voice.
That's a way to gain market share. But Cablevision, like all cable companies have several advantages over carriers like Vonage and Call Vantage. First the own their own media. They can run commericals, do bill stuffers until the cows come home and it costs them pennies, not thousands. Second, in the case of Cablevision, they are in a tight market area, so they can focus significant human effort to be out in force, we call that feet on the street marketing, with senior executives making a significant presence in the serving communities. Third, they have built in billing. But they also have one huge motivator that the telephony carriers don't have. A total hatred for satellite tv and the need to offer something different.

The cable companies are the enemy to local Regional Bells and National VoIP players. Does that give anyone ideas on how to compete? It sure does to me.

VoIP Store Opens

Someone wants to be a VoIP retailer. Good idea, but they will likely sell more over the web. Having a retail presence if done right, will go a long way to educate. I wonder how the manufacturers, who have never had a retail experience will react. This is great for Cisco via Linksys, D-Link and the carriers who know how to manage retail. Vonage and others should take note.