Vonage today launched their VonagePro service, their premium service offering that features a brand new softphone with single phone number identity, built-in contacts support, custom ringtones, and more.
Mary Grikas, Executive Director of Device Development for Vonage about the launch of Vonage Companion told me, "As far as the VoIP landscape goes, we feel strongly and we believe that the future of VoIP is not going just be based on price and bundling. Price our experience has told us, does not equate to loyal customers. Our customers are loyal if we help them communicate and if we offer them feature-rich offerings that fit into their lifestyles. Our product strategy is that everything we do is customer-centric and customer-focus."
She added, "VonagePro currently has about 1000 beta testers. Our marketing team went out and did a study of the prosumer, which is basically the professional consumer. Those are folks who are comfortable with technology, they embrace technology, they want to use technology to make their lives easier."
She continued, "WebEx is an example of that, right? We can have conference calls where we do demos. If you aren't able to make it to the office to see the demo you can still function and work through WebEx. That's an example of a prosumer. Somebody who is comfortable with technology, they're not afraid of it and they want to use it to help make their lives better. VonagePro is a new product offering that includes some new components and some existing components. It includes Vonage DigitalVoice, which is their traditional home landline replacement ($24.99/month unlimited local/long-distance service), Vonage access numbers, SimulRing, and more." VonagePro also includes 25 visual voicemail minutes per month (text-to-speech transcribing of voicemail) and 25 directory assistance calls per month as part of the VonagePro package. The major new component is a new softphone offering that is attached to your home phone number, called Vonage Companion. Mary commented, "That's something that our customers have been asking for a very long time."
Vonage already offered a Vonage softphone called V-Phone, a $9.99/month add-on that includes 500 minutes/month, but it uses a separate phone number from your home number. Vonage Companion is the first softphone offering that allows both your home analog telephony adaptor (ATA) and your softphone to receive phone calls to the same phone number.
The first device to answer the call first grabs the call. Call waiting still works on both the softphone device so on a second inbound call, the one currently on the phone will hear the call waiting tone while the other device rings. Both share the same DID phone number. It also acts as a second line, so for instance if someone is on the phone and you want to order a pizza, you can use Companion to make the outbound call. Further, the CallerID is the same regardless of which device you use to make the call.
I asked if Vonage Companion is an OEM'ed softphone from Counterpath and Vonage confirmed that was the case. One nifty feature in CompanionLink is the ability to set custom ringtones based on contacts. Vonage said some customers use their PC's speakers with custom ringtones as a method of screening callers without having to look at or be near the phone. Another useful feature is the ability to click a single button in Companion to record the call to a .wav file. Companion also lets you drag-and-drop contacts to have an ad-hoc instant conference. On the record, Vonage Companion supports 3 conference participants. Off the record it can support up to 6 conferees, depending on how much your bandwidth allows. Home-based business professionals, especially sales will appreciate the ability to break out one or more callers from within a conference. For example, suppose the customer wants a 20% discount, but you need to talk it over with your manager but not have the customer hear the conversation. You can simply separate all the callers and then using your mouse, simply click on each tab to speak privately to each of the callers. You can then conference them all back in via the Conference All button. Another nice feature of Companion is that contacts go with you based on your logon, so you can take your contacts with you wherever you logon.
I asked, "What sort of technical challenges did you have having the same CallerID and the same phone number? Obviously, you are leveraging SIP and the ATA that sits at the home residence logs on with one set of SIP credentials and Vonage Companion logs on with different SIP credentials, but it's mapped on your back-end to the same phone number."
Mary responded, "That's really a great question because we actually had to put almost a whole new infrastructure in place with a lot of new equipment. And we actually have proxies that are just dedicated to Companion to handle those calls. We do differentiate between the home TA DID credential and we do have flag for Companion. That way we know, as you said on the back-end it's all mapped and then we know where the call originates. We know if a call originates from Companion versus originating from the TA." Mary continued, "That was a lot of work for our call processing team. They had to do a lot of work configuring that system and all the redundancy and mapping. It was a pretty big effort, but it's something we were committed to doing because we had such an overwhelming request from our customers to implement a feature like that.
Companion also supports a mini-skinned mode as seen here:
I asked Vonage, "What were some of the challenges in developing Vonage Companion?"
Mary answered, "One of the challenges was making sure that all the back-end scenarios work seamlessly. For example, if you logon from another location. If you logon and the other instance is NOT on a call, it would automatically logout the other instance, but if the other instance is on a call, we want to present the user with the option - the other user is on a call. Are you sure you want to login at this time? We want to be sure that we cover all the use scenarios properly."
When asked to compare the existing Vonage V-phone offering for $9.99/month versus the new VonagePro for $10/month, Vonage responded, that if they're paying $9.99/month for the softphone service, it's a natural upgrade to VonagePro for an additional penny which adds the 25 TTS visual voicemail, the 25 directory assistance calls, the single phone number, and additional outbound phone line when the phone or Companion is in use.
Check out the spec sheet & the press release after the jump...
Vonage Pro Consumer Spec Sheet
What is Vonage Pro?
Vonage Pro is comprised of several components bundled together to form
one offer. The components of Vonage Pro are Vonage Digital Voice, Vonage
Companion, 25 Vonage Visual Voicemail (VVV) messages, Contact Center
and 25 Directory Assistance calls.
What is Included in Vonage Pro?
- Vonage Digital Voice® - Vonage's home phone service which offers unlimited local and long distance calls anywhere in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, and select European cities. Customers can make and receive phone calls with a touch tone telephone almost anywhere a broadband Internet connection is available.
- Vonage CompanionTM - Vonage Companion allows customers to use their home number from any desktop or laptop PC so they can make and receive calls as if they were right at home. Vonage Companion rings the home phone and computer at the same time, and offers customer requested features such as selective call block, personalized ringtones and call recording.
- Customers can use their PC's built-in microphone and speakers or plug in a headset with microphone to make and receive calls.
- Contact Center - Contact Center provides customers with the ability to integrate all contacts from their home, desktop and mobile address books.
- Contact Center also automatically integrates with Vonage Companion to ensure all of your contacts remain up to date. Note: Contact Center is available to all Vonage customers.
- Vonage Visual Voicemail® - The Vonage Visual Voicemail service allows customers to have Vonage Voicemail messages transcribed into text and sent along with the audio recording in an email and/or SMS message. The transcribed voicemail text can be sent to any valid email address. In addition to the translated text, the email message will also contain the audio recording of the voicemail message. This feature will allow customers to read their emails on their computer, Blackberry, Smartphone, etc. Vonage Pro allots up to 25 Vonage Visual Voicemail messages included in your monthly fee.
- 411 Directory Assistance - Customer get 25 included Enhanced 411 calls that can be used from a Vonage phone or Vonage Companion. Dialing connects the user to a bilingual (English and Spanish) directory assistance operator.
For new customers, the basic offer for Vonage Pro will be first month free,
$34.99 thereafter. For existing customers, the offer will be first month
$24.99, $34.99 thereafter.
*plus fees and taxes.
VONAGE LAUNCHES FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND VONAGE PRO OFFERING
TO KEEP CUSTOMERS CONNECTED TO THEIR HOME PHONE ON THE GO
Lifestyle-focused service offering includes next generation SoftPhone®, Vonage Companion™, which allows customers to use their home phone number away from home
Holmdel, NJ, July 28, 2008 - Vonage today announced the launch of Vonage Prosm, a first-of-its-kind digital voice offering featuring five innovative components that keep you connected to your home life while on the go, including the ability for customers to use their home phone number virtually anywhere they have access to a high speed Internet connection. Vonage Pro is the next step in the MyVonage™ product strategy, which is focused on developing products and services based on the requests of customers who have a wide variety of lifestyles and communication needs.
"Vonage revolutionized the communications industry when we launched our digital phone service eight years ago," says Jamie Haenggi, Chief Marketing Officer. "Today, our customers' lifestyles dictate more demanding communication needs and we are again driving the industry forward by providing customers with innovative communication solutions that are designed with their lifestyle in mind. Vonage Pro provides consumers with services they don't just need, but they really want."
Vonage Pro features five components that specifically accommodate the lifestyle of "prosumers," or professional consumers who are comfortable with and understand the benefits of using technology to improve their personal and professional lives.
With Vonage Pro, You are Home...Away from Home
The offering includes a next generation Vonage SoftPhone client, Vonage Companion**, that allows the residential or home office user to access their home number from any desktop or laptop PC connected to a high speed Internet connection, enabling them to communicate as if they are at home.
• Incoming calls ring both the customer's home phone and their Companion, and customers can make outgoing calls on both devices simultaneously -- essentially providing a second phone line.
• Vonage Companion also offers customer requested features such as selective call block, conference calling, personalized ringtones and call recording.
• Customers can use their PC's built-in microphone and speakers or plug in a headset with microphone to make and receive calls.
• Vonage Companion automatically synchronizes with Vonage Contact Center™*
• Home office users will never miss an important call when away on vacation or on a business trip.
"In a competitive communications landscape, VoIP services need to differentiate themselves on more than price," says Patrick Monaghan, Senior Analyst in Consumer Research at Yankee Group. "Advanced, flexible features that allow consumers to communicate anywhere will continue to grab market share."
Vonage Pro also includes Unlimited Vonage Residential Digital Voice service, 25 Vonage Visual Voicemail® messages, 25 411 Directory Assistance calls, and automatic integration of Vonage Contact Center -- all for one monthly rate. Vonage Visual Voicemail automatically transcribes voicemails to email or SMS text so customers can read, store, search, and respond to their voicemail messages on their phone, laptop or mobile device wherever and however they choose. Contact Center provides customers with the ability to synchronize all contacts from their home, desktop and mobile address books while providing additional features such as Voice Activated Dialing and Speed Dial.
"Vonage Pro is the VoIP offering that prosumers have been asking for to help them stay connected while on the go," said Haenggi. "We've already received feedback from beta users that indicates Vonage Pro will be a success, both in the quality of the phone service and the unique features it offers."
Vonage Pro, which comes together with Vonage's Residential Premium Unlimited Plan, will be offered to new customers for a plan fee of $34.99 per month (plus taxes and fees), and the plan fee for the first month will be waived as part of an initial promotion of this plan. Existing customers on the Residential Premium Unlimited Plan can add Vonage Pro for an additional $10 per month and they will also have their first month's Vonage Pro fee waived as part of the initial promotion. Please visit www.vonage.com for additional details.
**Vonage Companion is powered by CounterPath (OTCBB: CPAH; TSX-V: CCV), a global provider of innovative desktop and mobile VoIP software products and solutions - www.counterpath.com
*Contact Center is a feature available to all Vonage customers
Vonage (NYSE: VG) is a leading provider of digital phone services with over 2.6 million subscriber lines. Our award-winning technology enables anyone to make and receive phone calls with a touch tone telephone almost anywhere a broadband Internet connection is available. We offer feature-rich and cost-effective communication services that offer users an experience similar to traditional telephone services.
Our Residential Premium Unlimited and Small Business Unlimited calling plans offer consumers unlimited local and long distance calling, and popular features like call waiting, call forwarding and voicemail - for one low, flat monthly rate. Vonage's service is sold on the web and through national retailers including Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target and is available to customers in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. For more information about Vonage's products and services, please visit www.vonage.com.
Vonage Holdings Corp. is headquartered in Holmdel, New Jersey. Vonage® is a registered trademark of Vonage Marketing Inc., a subsidiary of Vonage Holdings Corp.