Junction Networks

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Junction Networks

I recently had the opportunity to ask Avery Glasser of Junction Networks about the evolution of the SMB IP communications space and the direction his company is taking.
 
Junction Networks provides business class VoIP service to companies without the hassle presented by traditional telephone providers and residential-focused VoIP providers.
 
By the way any company with a product called the 10-minute PBX is a must-interview in my opinion. Imagine, as an SMB if you go with a 10-minute PBX solution you will have time left over for 8-minute abs. ;)
 
To learn more about the company you may read this article published on TMCnet from earlier this year. In addition, you can read these comments about the company from esteemed blogger and ITEXPO speaker Ken Camp
 
RT: Please outline your new corporate initiatives.
AG: Our goals are really quite simple: Deliver on the promise of the 10-minute PBX, make setup simpler for our users, and add more business applications. Targeting the SMB market requires us to really focus on making the solution usable for companies who don’t have a technical staff member. We must simplify the user interface to make it faster to set up, remove technical barriers such as NAT translation issues, and add the sort of business applications that bring immediate value to the SMB market.
 
RT: How is IP communications changing your company’s strategy?
AG: Junction Networks was founded as an IP communications provider, offering gateway and hosted PBX services to the SMB market. IP communications hasn’t changed our strategy; it is due to IP communications that we exist.
 
RT: How has SIP changed communications?
AG: I don’t believe that SIP has changed communications. It’s RTP. SIP, as a protocol, involves the ability to deliver and route calls. RTP — the ability to packetize and stream audio is the real revolution. It allows businesses to create solutions without dedicated hardware.
 
RT: What is the biggest request coming from your customer base?
AG: Our biggest request is to simplify the configuration of both the hosted PBX as well as the endpoints such as IP phones, softphones, etc. We have made great strides in simplifying hosted PBX configuration, but the device manufacturers aren’t making it easy for us to create is a universal, automatic configuration tool. Removing this proprietary “lock” and allowing phones to receive plain-text configuration that could be downloaded from a Web site would be a major step in the right direction.
 
RT: How are you answering their demands?
AG: We’ve taken over three years worth of experience providing communications services to SMBs and used this knowledge to design an update to our hosted PBX offering, called onSIP. onSIP leverages our existing functionality but wraps it in a very user-friendly, Web 2.0 interface. It’s intuitive enough to get you started using your PBX within minutes after signing up for service.
 
RT: What do you think the future of the market is?
AG: The future of the market is fantastic. The problem is that the independent VoIP providers are getting FUD cast upon them because of poorly thought out business models, like SunRocket, and crackpot concepts like Ooma, which are dominating the headlines. The providers who focus on building solutions for a specific vertical, coming up with great horizontal apps or even small, targeted niches will be extremely successful.
 
RT: How does the U.S. growth rate compare to the rest of the world?
AG: As our focus is in the U.S. only, we haven’t taken the time to research the growth patterns in the rest of the world.
 
RT: What do you think of Google and Apple entering the telecom market?
AG: Google entering the communications market is a great thing especially now that they’re investing in more SIP services, such as those created by their new acquisition, GrandCentral. One of our goals would be for Google to open up their Google Talk so that any SIP endpoint can call a Google Talk account and vice versa. Getting GrandCentral to also allow other (non-Gizmo Project) destinations for call routing would also be extremely valuable. Apple’s entry is a bit of a yawn. They created a nice phone that uses always-on data capabilities, but it really isn’t helping the VoIP world. Again, if Apple would allow their iChat accounts to call out to SIP endpoints (and vice versa), then you’d have something worth talking about!
 
RT: How about Microsoft?
AG: Speaking as an SMB provider who is based on Open Source and runs on Linux boxes, you might be surprised to hear that we’re actually very happy to see Microsoft start pushing into the SIP market by providing a SIP application server within Office Communications Server. Microsoft touches so many small businesses that their move into supporting standards-based SIP technologies for communication and presence is a good thing.
 
RT: How will wireless technologies change our market?
AG: High-speed wireless data starts to allow mobile phone providers to start bundling VoIP applications with their devices. Unfortunately, as soon as revenue starts shifting away from the mobile minutes towards data, either carriers will start blocking VoIP or limiting VoIP services to their preferred partners.
 
RT: How will communications evolve over the next five years?
AG: If I had to make a bet, the next five years will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. As broadband becomes more prevalent within households worldwide, VoIP will start becoming more and more accepted as a telephone replacement for both residential and business users. Residential carriers will start to try to stem the flow of leaving customers, triple play bundles all over a single broadband connection (IP Phone, IPTV and broadband Internet). Once critical mass hits, we can hopefully start to see more acceptance of ENUM/E.164 to facilitate pure SIP-to-SIP calls.
 
RT: What sorts of things will we be hearing about during your presentation at ITEXPO?
AG: You’ll hear about our strategy of using Open Source as an accelerator for providing services to the SMB marketplace. We’ll talk about the power of user interface, tailoring services and building the market for underserved users.
 
RT: Why is your presentation a “Can’t Miss?”
AG: Because the SMB market is one of the fastest growing segments for telephony services, selling into this market is very different from residential or enterprise sales.
 
RT: What do you want the industry to know about your company?
We’re a three-year-old profitable IP telephony services provider focused on bringing enterprise-level applications to the SMB marketplace. We’re trying to change the pricing and features that are being made available in this space.
 
RT: Please make one surprising prediction we will see in 5 years.
AG: Most of my predictions are less than surprising: more interest in VoIP by the broadband carriers; Microsoft, Apple, AOL, Google and Yahoo will become residential VoIP providers. The next five years aren’t shaping up to be evolutionary, not revolutionary — with telecom vendors working with service providers to expand their solutions beyond the large enterprises and contact centers to deliver solutions the SMB.


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