The business VoIP market has a tremendous amount of growth potential based on a recent FCC report I highlighted last week. And perhaps the most exciting aspect of the market is there is no single leading player which comes to mind – especially for the SMB. And losing and gaining marketshare in the segment can be done quite rapidly if you aren’t careful. Case in point are Comdial and Inter-Tel: two major players in the SMB CPE space just a decade-and-a-half ago.
Comdial was purchased by Vertical – along with a number of other CPE communications companies/PBX vendors and a branding and marketing vacuum the likes which I don’t recall ever seeing has resulted in a stock price which was at over $20 a decade ago and now 1.5 cents per share with a market cap under a million dollars. To be fair, Comdial had major problems before the acquisition so there is lots of blame to go around with regards to this company’s management over the past decade plus.
Mitel and Inter-Tel were two other big CPE players in the market in the nineties and the two companies have combined into a single entity which remind us that so many acquisitions fail. Mitel has given up 2/3 of its value in less than one year in fact. One of the beneficiaries of SMB marketshare gains has been ShoreTel – a relative newcomer to the space but one that understood how integral consistent branding is when coupled with ease-of-use.
Then there was Nortel – by now we all know what happened with this company. And even mighty Microsoft fumbled when getting passed the SMB PBX football – remember Response Point?
I have done my best to build a case as to why new companies can come into the small business communications space and become successful. And this sets us up well as I recently had a conversation with Gary Johnson, President and CEO of Voice Carrier (news). Formerly Ring Carrier – the company changed its name to avoid confusion with a competitor. Moreover – they tell me they are being aggressive and are serious about growing in the small business communications space.
One of their differentiators is they have developed their own technology – which they believe is more reliable than other solutions and moreover, because they own it, they are able to price their solutions more vo.
When I pressed for other differences I was told quality, reliability and long list of functions equal to or better than others. Moreover there is in-country 24x7 tech support as well as pricing which corresponds to concurrent lines as opposed to one line per user.
For example you can have an eight-extension PBX and pay for three lines (assuming that is all you need at once) and $2 per month for each DID. I am told a typical customer uses 2-4 concurrent lines with ten extensions. In addition, there is a built-in IVR, recording, whisper making this system useful for contact centers.
You also get find me/follow me functions and can use star codes to transfer calls picked up on a cell phone to other PBX users. SIP clients can be used meaning an iPad or iPhone can be used as a client and there is a dashboard where you can see system status, who is online, how many calls are in queue and other functions you may expect in a contact center.
There is also server and geographic failover which is certainly important. They actually have a patent-pending on their approach. And their technology is a blend of open-source and proprietary glue which binds together what they tell is me are best-in-breed components.
The company thinks its costs are significantly lower than others in the space and if they are accurate, gives them a significant advantage as they can promote themselves and still provide a solution which is as cost-effective as others or even cheaper.
I can’t tell you what company will be the next big thing but the passion meter was off the chart listening to Johnson speak and moreover he has been involved in a slew of tech IPOs in the past and generally that is a great sign of potential future success.
The SMB cloud communications space is certainly growing and we can expect it to continue its rapid ascent. That means Voice Carrier has tremendous potential to grow if they can deliver on their promise to deliver a quality service at a reasonable price.