Our time at CTIA in Las Vegas last week was beyond hectic. We managed to connect with 31 different companies, each with a story to tell, each deeply imbued with the belief that they are about to change the wireless and mobile world. Well, we all know how that goes. That said, we did uncover a number of possible gems among all the rough cut stones, some of which we will put into perspective this week.
The first is a potentially powerful platform called VoxOx – a unified communications (UC) system and platform that the company has built around “and beyond” rich communications services (RCS). The VoxOx platform (“VoxOx” nominally stands for voice services over everything) has been developed by a very interesting company, Telcentris (News - Alert), which was founded in 2006 and has its roots in cloud-based, business-targeted communications services – a substantial suite of communications services the company offers as VoxOx In Business. The company, which now has 75 full-time employees, has managed to raise $33 million in funding to date – approximately $28 million of it from private investors. In January 2013, it received a new round of $5.3 million from Cyprus-based SBD Global Fund.
We caught up with the company’s CTO, Kevin Hertz and its new CMO, Joe Lawrence, after show hours and dug into the platform and their motivations for building it (we also admit they picked up the tab for a very nice bottle of Chianti, though that had no bearing on our thoughts – three or four bottles might have proven a different story).
VoxOx specifically targets the wireless carrier marketplace through the company’s VoxOx For Operators program (which was launched in late February at the 2013 Mobile World Congress (News - Alert)). The program specifically seeks to help carriers deliver innovative products – either co-branded with VoxOx or white labeled by carrier partners – in order to allow the carriers to strongly compete against the recent spate of Over the Top (OTT) services and applications, as well as to help carriers strongly differentiate their emerging RCS offerings against other carriers. The new funding from SBD Global primarily targets allowing Telcentris to expand its global reach among target carrier partner opportunities.
In a nutshell, VoxOx simplifies user communications by integrating potentially scattered services, contacts and conversations into one comprehensive and easy to use application. VoxOx is an open platform and offers users:
- Free peer-to-peer voice and video calls
- Inexpensive VoIP calling to landline (IP desktphones), desktop and mobile devices
- Intelligent call routing and screening functionality
- Multi-protocol instant messaging
- Social network aggregation
- Large file transfers
- Real-time IM and text messaging language transcription between approximately 50 languages
OTT apps, of which WhatsApp is probably the best known, have proven beyond a doubt that messaging is a powerful driver for people to build and extend social relationships and networks – whether in one-to-one or many-to-many settings. These services are free for users (aside from very low subscription costs per user) and are beginning to seriously eat into SMS messaging revenue streams that wireless carriers have been taking for granted for some time now.
Further, the availability of RCS does not simply translate into the carriers themselves being able to actually deliver well thought out new services that can be easily monetized by them. We all know how carriers operate – very slow out of the gates and always several steps behind the independent players.
Kevin points out, “These two separate but inevitably related issues create a potentially very sweet spot for VoxOx. It allows us to give the wireless carriers a powerful platform to leverage that is both RCS 5.1 compliant (meaning that both the latest version of RCS and the entire RCS feature set is supported) and delivers services that go beyond RCS 5.1.”
Telcentris views RCS 5.1 (which is in fact already quite feature-rich) as nothing more than it’s starting point for building out its collection of services. These features include, among others:
- Caller ID capability
- Social Network Integration
- Group SMS and IM conversations
- Voice/Video/Messaging with OTT (non-RCS) users
- FindMe/Follow Me
These services have the cumulative effect of bringing together and truly “unifying” streams of otherwise disjointed communications threads and contacts. There is much more, but our goal here is merely to identify the gem – we’ll leave it to interested users, and especially the wireless carrier community, to uncover every facet of the gem and the level of fit, finish and polish applied to each of them.
Try VoxOx Yourself
VoxOx is available for download directly to one’s desktop, from which the application can be installed and set up for every individual user. VoxOx will provide users with their own phone numbers and will, if the user desires, import contacts from e-mail and all social networking sources. VoxOx is currently able to assign phone numbers for the five states they are licensed in: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.
From the desktop, we ourselves were able to land a phone number with a Massachusetts area code – which we can live with. Under the company’s VoxOx For Operators program all participating operators will of course be able to issue phone numbers across all of their own licensed areas.
There is currently an alpha version of VoxOx for the iPhone (News - Alert), which is already being used in over 200 countries. As one might expect, an alpha release is not typically going to prove itself a shining star, and it’s worth a heads up here to that effect – anyone who feels the urge to write a review should keep this in mind. Joe did note, “The next version of the iPhone app, which we are preparing to launch soon, will be much more robust and deliver many more features. Following the next iPhone launch we’ll put the Android (News - Alert) version out there as well.”
Interestingly, the global nature of the carriers VoxOx is targeting – meaning the EMEA and Asia Pac regions – likely means that the company may need to put a Symbian version of VoxOx out there. As antiquated as the notion of Symbian may now be, there are millions of these devices out there that carriers can put a new shine on for their users. Also based on carrier demand, the company has plans in place to support both BlackBerry (News - Alert) 7 and 10 devices. The outlier in the group at the moment is Windows Phone, for which the company will need to see more demand before it invests resources towards supporting it.
All in all, VoxOx qualifies as a CTIA 2013 Gem for us. The Chianti was quite good, but it wasn’t that good – the platform is likely to prove a very welcome addition for the carrier community and its collective users fully on its own merits.
Edited by Alisen Downey