So you want to be the next Vonage, eh? There are many entrepreneurs trying to get into the VoIP service provider business. In order to get into the business you’ll need a softswitch, several gateways, and high-speed Internet access to each gateway. You’ll also need to integrate a billing platform and hire technical IT support staff, which certainly makes it cost-prohibitive for many people to get into the VoIP business.
telic.net, founded in 1999, provides hosted VoIP applications, including an integrated billing platform, that allow service providers to launch revenue-generating packet telephony services with low upfront capital expenditure. As a hosted service, telic.net provides maintenance, bug fixes, and new feature upgrades, saving their clients from having to deal with this stuff. telic.net offers several applications, including hosted softswitching, hosted debit cards, hosted SMS callback; all supported by the same real-time billing platform. You can also develop your own applications and integrate them with telic.net’s infrastructure.
We examined telic.net’s latest offering called xVox SOHO Broadband solution, which you can think of as a “hosted Vonage” (but with many more features than Vonage, which we will detail later). Using SOHO Broadband you can become your own little Vonage or even BIGGER with enough time and marketing! As with telic.net’s other hosted applications, with SOHO Broadband, you don’t need gateways dispersed worldwide to start offering telephony services. You can simply negotiate a “rate” with carriers that have gateways worldwide and use their gateways to terminate IP traffic onto the PSTN.
Thus, all you need to provide to your customers is a SIP or H.323 device and let this product do the rest. SOHO Broadband supports both protocols and in fact can transcode between the two if needed. In theory, the product should work with any SIP phone device or even a softphone client, such as Xten’s SIP-based X-Lite or X-PRO (http://www.xten.com). Thus, using a VoIP phone, your customers can both make and receive outbound calls.
But that’s not all. SOHO Broadband offers some features that Vonage does not and that’s calling cards, callback (trigged via ANI, SMS, Web or e-mail), presence, and prepaid calling cards. Thus, clients using SOHO Broadband can offer prepaid calling in addition to the traditional invoiced billing option. Another interesting feature is the ability of the system to detect the presence of a user online and route and bill based on that. As an example, suppose that if a subscriber is online (as indicated by MSN Messenger or the like), he would like to receive calls at his softfone. But if he is offline, he would like them forwarded to his cell phone (and pay, perhaps, an additional charge). The telic.net platform has the ability to detect this in real-time and charge accordingly. In fact, SOHO Broadband has a very flexible billing interface. Whatever your mind can imagine as a method to bill your customers, this platform can probably handle it; whether it’s the traditional flat rate per month, flat-per-minute rate by country, to offering discounts based on volume of minutes, to even special value-adds such as discounting customers’ pricing if they listen to an advertisement before the call is connected. Since the billing is very flexible you can for example, put in a rate that is $.07 for the first minute, then $0.05 per minute up to 20 minutes and then $0.03 per minute after that. You can also define the billing rate whether you bill every six seconds, every 30 seconds, or every minute. In addition, you can prioritize which routes (carriers) are used — which can change based on schedules, such as weekdays, weekends, time of day, etc. as well as route based on the history of the quality of the routes.
During our tests, telic.net set up a demo account just to show us how the system works to pre-empt the call from being connected, play an advertisement, and then connect the call. We tested this feature making a call from a SIP phone and it worked without a hitch.
telic.net recited an example whereby you can detect that the phone number being called is a pizzeria. The SOHO Broadband system can recognize this phone number and then play a competitive ad such as “Pizza Hut is offering a special $5 price for a large pizza. Press ‘1’ to connect to Pizza Hut now or press 2 to connect your original number dialed.”
SOHO Broadband clients can leverage commercial ads to offset costs and lower their per-minute rates to be competitive with other VoIP offerings. Soon the best per-minute rate won’t be the deciding factor when choosing a phone company, but the value-adds and features you can offer your customer base to differentiate from competitors. SOHO Broadband does a terrific job of offering such capabilities.
Of course, no one wants a commercial every single time they make a call (Dialpad tried that model and failed miserably). So we have an idea how service providers could use advertising, while at the same time not turning off customers. A service provider could offer a discounted monthly rate if a customer agrees to listen to a commercial before being connected to the call. However, the customer can press the # key to interrupt commercial in the event of an emergency call or if he’s just too busy to be bothered. The service provider could let the customer have, say, five commercial interrupts per month before they charge a one-time fee for not listening to the commercials enough times as agreed in the discounted-rate contract. There certainly are a lot of possibilities of “value adds” with VoIP with its extreme flexibility and certainly SOHO Broadband has the architecture to provide those means.
We tested SOHO Broadband with a Snom 200 SIP phone with no problem. We configured the SIP settings and we were then able to make both inbound and outbound calls to the Snom phone. We were also able to test the media server by listening to the voicemail prompts and even leave messages which were forwarded to an e-mail address.
telic.net gave us a demo account to test their Web-based platform, (Figure 1). We logged onto our Web-based account and were able to download a softphone client (Web SoftFone), access our Call History (Figure 2), view current termination rates to specific countries, and initiate a Web callback. This Web site was merely an example of what can be done, while integrating with the telic.net xVox platform using SOAP-XML Web services. From our demo site we could perform outbound calling to any SIP or H323 end-point, direct inbound calling (using an auto-attendant), direct inbound dialing (using assigned DIDs), pre- or post paid billing, voice mail, and presence management. Also important to note during our tests was that our demo was set up with a predetermined number of minutes and when we initiated a call, the system would playback the amount of remaining minutes. This, too, is obviously user-configurable.
telic.net’s solutions are compatible with almost any standards-based gateway equipment, including gateways that support H.323 and SIP. Each component of the entire solution is fully integrated with all other components to work as an “end-to-end solution,” including the ability to do everything from provisioning to invoicing. In addition, each customer’s solution is private branded.
telic.net’s solution supports instant messaging features, network presence capabilities, phone to PC/PC-to-phone/ PC-to-PC telephony, and self-service provisioning. Since it is 100 percent Web-based, you don’t need to have telic.net perform tasks that you prefer to do yourself.
xVox, telic.net’s open architecture, seamlessly integrates all back office functions (including Web-based self-provisioning, order management, revenue management, customer management, route management and billing) with a carrier-class softswitch and media server.
Other Key Features
• Solves subscriber provisioning, customer care, and billing issues.
• Open XML interface and published Web services allow you to design your own user interface, and share information with any number of related systems, including existing order entry and OSS systems.
• Supports any SIP compliant CPE (or softphone) and allows service to commence as soon as the equipment is powered-on. Continuous compliance testing ensures compatibility with the ever-growing list of SIP CPE vendors.
• No need for public IP addresses. Sophisticated network-based NAT traversal techniques minimize complications associated with allocating IP addresses to thousands of phones, without STUN.
• Compatible with any third-party SIP-based voicemail or telic’s xVox Voicemail solution.
• Integrated voice banners enable unique branding and highly-targeted marketing campaigns.
• Paperless billing option and online payment processing improves margins through reduced transaction costs.
xVox SOHO Broadband is the perfect “soup to nuts” solution to position you to become the next Vonage. It features everything you need from billing to hard and soft-phone clients. The only thing it doesn’t have is “termination,” which typically customers already have themselves, and if they don’t, telic.net has partnerships with termination providers to get you up and running quickly. Add in the fact that this product offers pre-paid calling card capabilities in addition to the ability to provide residential broadband telephony, and it’s not hard for us to envision telic.net’s product spawning many Vonages!
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