This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
A recent study from Infonetics (News - Alert) Research points out that there’s a growing gap between large and small VoIP providers in North America, and that Comcast is now head of the pack in the former group.
"After a banner 2010, 2011 was another year of consolidation in North America among business VoIP service providers,” says Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP and IMS at Infonetics Research (News - Alert). “Though there are still a large number of VoIP service providers in North America, consolidation is starting to separate the large providers from the rest of the pack."
At the end of last year, many of the top hosted VoIP service providers had more than 100,000 VoIP and UC seats, while others had fewer than 50,000 seats, according to the firm.
Myers adds that “Comcast's acquisition of New Global Telecom, the former perennial leader in our business VoIP scorecards, propelled Comcast to the No. 1 position in Infonetics' hosted Business VoIP Leadership Scorecard this year. And, for the fourth year in a row, Verizon (News - Alert) Business is No. 1 in our IP Connectivity Leadership Scorecard, followed by AT&T."West and 8x8 are also among the top hosted VoIP providers in North America, according to Infonetics, which adds that “the competitive landscape for hosted VoIP services is shaking up, with the traditional PBX and UC vendors such as ShoreTel, NEC (News - Alert), Mitel, Avaya, and Cisco jumping into the cloud.”
Of course, another important development relating to VoIP providers, and services companies at large, is the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund reform effort. Jonathan S. Marashlian of The CommLaw Group recently shared his assessment of the FCC’s (News - Alert) activities on this front.
The CommLaw Group, he says, perceives “at least three identifiable and troubling ‘observations’ regarding the FCC’s intentions and objectives” discussed in the commission’s recently released further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which solicits comments from the industry on proposed interim and/or long-term reforms to the methodology used to extract contributions to support the Universal Service Fund.
“First, the FCC appears poised to enact interim reforms to the current revenue-based contribution methodology,” writes Marashlian. “There is always the likelihood that if interim reforms resolve the FCC’s concerns about ensuring sufficient funding, these interim reforms may become more permanent, thus rendering thoughts of more fundamental shifts to a Numbers-Based or Connections-Based methodology somewhat of an afterthought (or a thought to pick up on at the tail end of the Commission’s goal of transforming the ‘switched’ PSTN to a ‘ubiquitous broadband’ network).
“The second observation should not be unexpected, as it is the logical extension of the first,” he continues. “The FCC’s interim (and potentially long-term) revenue-based reforms are geared primarily at EXPANDING the scope of USF contributors to include a broader swath of industry participants, including more VOIP services, Broadband and Internet services, and a variety of users (and what the FCC calls “beneficiaries”) of the public communications network and public Internet. A review of the FNPRM quickly illustrates that the FCC is leaving no stone unturned in its quest for USF contribution revenue.
“Also prominent is discussion of ‘revenue allocations’ to address the Commission’s apparent interest in finding assessable telecommunications revenue in practically any service with a ‘voice’ or ‘transmission’ component. While the Commission’s jurisdictional authority to expand its reach into some of the more extreme areas it suggests is dubious, the FCC nevertheless appears to be holding out the threats, perhaps in an attempt to negotiate a re-positioning of the center point. Even shifting the middle towards a more expansive contributor base will help the FCC achieve its interim goal of shoring up the financial condition of the fund.
“The third trend is somewhat alarming, particularly for providers and consumers of certain international and intrastate services which, heretofore, were shielded from contributions through specific regulatory, statutory or judicial exemptions. The FCC is threatening to eliminate certain exemptions, such as the Limited International Revenue Exemption, thus exposing a larger percentage of international revenue to USF contributions.”
Edited by Stefania Viscusi