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Scaling Down: VoIP for the SMB Becomes a Reality

By Greg Galitzine


I�ve been hearing quite a lot lately about small and medium business (SMB) customers and how equipment vendors and carriers (through hosted offerings) are targeting this heretofore underserved market. John Macario, president of telecom management consulting firm Savatar, noted, �The small and medium business VoIP market is starting to heat up, yet it is still up for grabs. SMB decision makers still don�t know which providers to turn to for services.�

Well, SMB decision makers are increasingly faced with a multitude of choices when it comes to embracing VoIP (define - news -alerts).

Allworx just launched their 6X �key system killer� product, which I describe more fully on page 16.

Whaleback Systems is continuing their push into the SMB with the announcement of two new feature upgrades to its CrystalBlue Voice Service, which is a turnkey, premises-based, IP PBX solution The features include Road Warrior Functionality and OrcaDial.

Road Warrior Functionality is designed to allow businesses to extend their office communications to employees that are on the road or working from home provided they have a connection to the broadband network.

OrcaDial delivers click-to-dial functionality across multiple applications. For example, a user can highlight a phone number in a desktop application and hit the F10 key to establish the call. OrcaDial works with multiple desktop applications, including Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint and others.

RNKVoIP, a VoIP wholesaler, recently unveiled its RNKVoIP for Small Business plan. RNKVoIP announced that it will be a participating service provider in the Linksys Voice System 9000 (LVS9000) Program.

Skype (news -alerts) and Vonage (news -alerts) have both recently made some waves in the SMB pool as well.

However, one of the biggest stories I�ve come across recently is Sprint�s entry into the enterprise hosted IP telephony space, with the announced launch of their Sprint IP Voice Connect offering. Sprint IP Voice Connect is a network-based hosted telephony solution designed to provide local and long distance services as well as PBX and traditional Centrex features over Sprint�s Dedicated IP or Global MPLS network. Sprint�s secure carrier-grade service is enabled by Lucent Technologies� Hosted VoIP Solution for Enterprises through its Global Network Operations Centers.

Of course, Sprint is most likely to go after the �M� of the SMB market first, but the fact is their solution is able to scale down as well.

The IP Voice Connect solution is based on Lucent�s Hosted VoIP Solution for Enterprises, which in turn is based on Broadsoft�s Broadworks application platform.

Lucent�s successful ongoing partnership with Broadsoft is a relationship that resonated with Sprint. According to Joel Whitaker, product marketing manager at Sprint, �Broadsoft is a true carrier-grade VoIP platform and Lucent�s implementation is secure, reliable, and fully featured.�

I asked Diane Myers, director of strategic marketing at BroadSoft, what she thought of Sprint�s entrance into the hosted IP telephony space.

�The potential impact Sprint has on the marketplace is numerous but two key areas are its focus on large enterprises and position in the mobile market,� said Myers. �With most carriers� hosted IP PBX services focused on the SMB market, Sprint�s commitment to marketing IP Voice Connect demonstrates the validity of the solution for businesses of all sizes. On the mobile front, with a fully integrated wireline/wireless operations, sales, and marketing organization, Sprint is in an ideal position to offer a converged hosted PBX application. This will provide them with the ability to offer unique service capabilities in the near-term.�

So the SMB market has gone from underserved, to highly targeted. In the end, it�s these users who stand to benefit the most, as they get to choose solutions of every stripe, at every price range, and with features to spare.

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