ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells
April 2007
Volume 10 / Number 4
Innovative Ideas from the "VoIP for Small Business" Experts

Building a Business After the Minutes

By Karl Gretton, President, ProtocolIS Inc. (

What would it be like if you had to pay 10 cents for every website you visit, or 10 cents to send each email? Many people are forgetting that once a broadband connection is available, and people begin to use a domain name address for all communications, the VoIP business for toll by-pass will become uninteresting. Mobile providers already know what Fixed Mobile Convergence (News - Alert) (FMC) and dual-mode handsets will mean for their toll-based business model. Subscribers in a few years will look back and chuckle at the notion of a dime for a call.

The buzz about applications, content, and media is more like a firestorm, because unlike email replacing the fax machine industry, the next phase of Internet Communications is all about replacing massive multi-billion dollar business models. Building out applications on a platform that can scale and from a vendor that will be around in this new ecosystem is actually quite challenging. Most of the handful of vendors that are delivering platforms have either already been bought/bailed out, or they are seeking an exit because of the changed environment of venture funds.

We found that open source options, compared to the variety of choices for say, email, are very slim. We were somewhat shocked that Asterisk (News - Alert) could only provide about 200 concurrent users per server. I could not imagine a subscriber base the size of even a small regional Bell using that. Worse, creation models of really powerful applications seem lacking in the industry as a whole. Many vendors are still talking about basic things like multi-device ring, color ring back tones, and the like. To be competitive, especially in a world where Google (News - Alert) and others will provide applications to the subscribers on your network, one must deliver Rich Media applications that will keep those subscribers on the network.

We stopped looking at open source, mostly due to a lack of scalability, and started looking at the three major vendors of SIP platforms. CommuniGate Pro, however, quickly impressed us with its performance, and the company having being around for 16 years sure helped a bit. The compelling thing about the platform first off was the tight integration of all the fundamentals, like email, SIP, XMPP, calendar, presence, even session border controller functionality. The example applications for a hosted PBX (News - Alert) and voicemail are in an open scripting language; that immediately got us thinking how the calendar and PBX could work together. The really hot thing that sold it for us was the access to the platform via XML to the CommuniGate XIMSS API. With this API, all our interfaces and applications do not need to talk to anything but XML, allowing our developers to not have to learn heavy protocols like SIP. Our development of a support department application with an ACD and a customer- facing web-based chat client (using AJAX), that talks to that API, took less than one week to create.

Our business model is based on providing small businesses, typically under 25 users, a full communication offering that is hosted and supported completely. We have already moved from the VoIP minutes business into becoming a full stop ASP with flexibility to adapt to just about any business needs for communications.


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