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In the CEO Spotlight section in Internet Telephony, we recognize the outstanding work performed by exemplary companies. Each month we bring you the opinions of the heads of companies leading the Internet telephony industry now and helping to shape the future of the industry. This month, we spoke with Greg Welch, Chairman and CEO of GlobalTouch Telecom (news - alerts).


GG: What is GlobalTouch Telecoms mission?

GW: In a nutshell, we are an ASP and a carriers carrier and we enable our customers to leverage the benefits of VoIP by offering them the most cost-effective, compact all-in-one, powerful VoIP service on the market anyone can come to us and we will put them in the VoIP business in 60 days or less.

GG: How did you get into the VoIP business?

GW: Well, we started out as long-distance service provider, which is a good solid business, but we were also aware that VoIP was evolving quickly and becoming an important factor. We started shopping around for a VoIP solution so we could become a reseller. As we researched the idea, we discovered that there was no comprehensive VoIP solution that suited our needs. The only avenue was to cobble together an offering mixing software and equipment from several vendors. This meant a lot of money and a lot of time to put together a solution with lots of finger pointing when something goes wrong or when we would want to introduce new features. Forget it. Instead, we teamed up with a group of developers in Chicago, who were formerly with Webley Systems, and together we developed our own VoIP technology, including our own VoIP software, softswitch, SBC, even an IP-PBX feature and several other features. What we created was an all-in-one software-based solution that can serve 15k callers on one pizza box that costs us no licensing fee and can be scaled and upgraded at will. So, for us VoIP fostered a dramatic paradigm shift from a retail service provider to developing and reselling an integrated VoIP solution and becoming an ASP and a carriers carrier.

GG: What is your vision for GlobalTouch and how is the company positioned in the next-generation telecom market?

GW: Well, here we are with a unique and powerful VoIP solution in terms of cost, features, and quality. The next logical step is to continue to develop applications that will change the way people communicate (e.g., moving to video and other unique applications, more features on our PBX to save costs and increase productivity, custom developed applications that enable our reseller customers to compete more effectively in their own markets, that very quickly pinpoint and fulfill a local market niche). This is what really goes to the heart of the next- generation promise as I see it.

GG: Now that it appears that growth and opportunity are the trends in the VoIP industry, what possible hurdles do you see that might upset this momentum?

GW: Technologically, I dont see any real obstacles. The only obstacles I see will likely be regulatory ones, fomented by lobbyists through the FCC as VoIP really starts to gain significant market share and consumer awareness and ruffle feathers. Will we have a level playing field enforced by the FCC? I

suspect the recent dust over 911 was probably the result of political maneuvering rather than correct regulation designed to protect consumers. If they really care about 911, why dont cell phones more accurately pinpoint the users location. On the other hand, when the 911 issue was forced, it was just another chance for VoIP to demonstrate its flexibility, to adapt a feature as demanded by the market quickly and cost-effectively.

GG: What are some of the technology areas where GlobalTouch is increasingly focusing, and why are these areas important to the future of your company?

GW: We are focused on technology that helps us and our customers deliver any new feature, service or killer app, and pushing the envelope in terms of how quickly, flexibly, and scalably we can roll them out. Let me give you an example. We recently got a call from Sony Pictures marketing department. The wanted to promote a new horror film, When a Stranger Calls, by setting up a toll-free number for moviegoers to call and hear a scary call featuring an actor from the movie. They came to us after trying the traditional telco route. The quote they got was too much time for set-up at too high a cost. We, on the other hand, because we have our own VoIP platform, were able to set up and run the call with a few mouse clicks we handled hundreds of thousands of calls during the movies opening weekend without a hitch. So, in terms of VoIP technology, I think this is where we and the entire industry are headed VoIP technology as a springboard for ad hoc, cost-effective services and applications the horror film promotion was truly a killer app.

GG: Describe your view of the future of the IP telephony industry.

GW: I feel that VoIP is the most exciting thing that we have seen in our industry since 92, and I think the buzz in the industry confirms this. We are only just breaking ground with VoIP Telephony; the future of VoIP is in services and killer apps that we have not yet even imagined. The excitement stems from that fact that VoIP is ushering in a new communications landscape of services and applications that will ultimately prove to be more profitable than voice, and will put the profit back in the voice by being bundled with it. VoIP is bringing voice back to its roots in a way where users will say a name into a device and it locates that person, no matter where they are or on what device, like people used to do via an operator. On the business side, VoIP is dramatically improving productivity, and reducing the cost of doing business. Field sales or service personnel armed with softphones on notebooks or even PDAs will click to dial ad hoc video conferences to review documents with the home office. This way, a contract negotiation or service call can be completed with considerable speed and efficiency, to name just one application in a field that is wide open. The point is that VoIP is poised to reap the benefits of an increasingly global economy and mobile society. And with the proliferation of hotspots, particularly the movement to municipally administered citywide hotspots, VoIP will allow users mobility, economy and flexibility that has never been seen before. IT

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