Changing the Proprietary, Closed, and Almost Secretive Phone Network

Suzanne Bowen : Monetizing IP Communications
Suzanne Bowen
32 yrs in telecom, teaching, blog & grant writing, biz development, marketing, & PR. Favorite moments in life involve time w/ family & friends, networking, IP communications industry verticals & horizontals, running, traveling, foreign languages
| 1. "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition..." Barack Obama ..... 2. "One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain." By Thomas Sowell

Changing the Proprietary, Closed, and Almost Secretive Phone Network

 Picture is from 2600 Hertz Pproject Team.p

Almost every morning between 4 and 6 AM, I read, listen and watch GigaOm, TechCrunch, TMC, RCR Wireless and Voip, Geekspeak.org, and various blogs and video channels. After reading a post by Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm, I asked entrepeneur and business owner Darren Schreiber to let me record a talk with him that I could share with the public online. He is co-founder and CEO of 2600 Hertz.

Podcast to listen to: 2600hz.mp3


Topics discussed and a summary of the transcript:

1. Suzanne Bowen: Need a VoIP Cloud? Just Whistle & Roll Your Own is the title of the April 26, 2011 article on GigaOm by Stacey Higginbotham. It's been tweeted 125 times and liked on 73 Facebook pages. Pretty awesome! Would you give some background on 2600 Hertz and you?


Darren Schreiber: The 2600hz organization and even its name focuses around the concept that the phone network has been proprietary, closed, and almost secretive for almost a hundred years. We're in an era now where it is finally opened up quite dramatically. People, for about $20 to $25 per month through service providers like Bandwidth.com, can basically log in and get access to the SS7 network which is extremely powerful. The software and facilities to power that access and what you can actually do with that access is still quite complex.




I think in order to crack open the real opportunities of allowing people to communicate more freely, and in different ways, will only be realized by opening that network as much as humanly possible.


2. Suzanne Bowen: How does 2600 Hertz Project change how people do business and accomplish even social goals in cloud computing and voice over Internet opportunities?


Darren Schreiber: One of the most difficult parts of being able to get access to this awesome network that connects the world is to make it easy to do exactly that ... get connected. We make it easy for people to deploy an infrastructure that meets some of the standards of the old SS7 network. It's highly reliable, highly available. It always works.




It allows them to have ownership over that network and still be able to hook it up to their own servers, equipment and infrastructure. Now, they can provide whatever value that they want to offer the world.



The goal is to simplify the operational aspects of running one's own VoIP infrastructure. We automate deployment. We have simple APIs to interact with our switching software. 


3. Suzanne Bowen: Who are the typical clients? What types of entities, people and organizations can benefit from 2600 Hertz the most?


Darren Schreiber: Our original target was small IT providers: people who have 15-30 companies around the world and USA where they manage computers and network infrastructure. Those folks' jobs are really changing. People expect when your IT guy goes there, he knows that it is not just to fix the computer but also the phone. 


It's a natural extension for those companies to be able to sell phone services into those organizations where they are already trusted.


What we have discovered is that cable operators, CLECs, and larger enterprises have the same issues. While we did build our infrastructure and software to scale, we just never expected those customers to frankly not already have something that serves this need.


What we are finding is that they either do have something that serves the needs, but it is very expensive and difficult to manage or they don't have anything.


A lot of carriers, rural operators, people like that ... even some wireless companies have contacted to say, "We know how to carry the traffic. We know how to get the phone call from point A to point B, but we don't have any features on top of it. We don't have any monitoring tools. We don't have any ability in our infrastructure to be flexible and move data centers so the cost gets too high."


There has been an interest across the board, but frankly the big interest is coming from the enterprise and the carrier markets especially people who resell services. 


4. Suzanne Bowen: What your company and our company (DIDX service) both do help these carriers, etc. reduce cost, get customers, but most important is to retain them.


Darren Schreiber: That is a huge missing piece in VoIP. No one ever sends us an RFP that asks us if we have automatic fail-over and redundancy and can monitor the circuits to actually tell the customers what may be wrong with their SIP headers.


They ask us if we have voicemail, if we have Find Me Follow Me. They like the features, but they are used to the SS7 reliability, so they don't even think to ask that until later when the thing doesn't work.


The majority of our focus has been on the up-time and the quality of service and making that information easily more accessible to people and then ... coupling it with features. 


We spent the last year, trying to solidify the platform. I think that is an overlooked portion of this whole industry, so that's a big target of ours.


I think what you guys do is allow people to connect in reliable ways to the same network we are trying to allow people to add features to.


So, it's extremely complementary.

5. Is this anything like Twilio or Tropo? We both respect both companies, but how is 2600hz Hertz alike and different?


Darren Schreiber: On the surface, they look a lot alike because we provide APIs as the access point. That in itself is somewhat new to the telecom industry. Many people like to say, "Oh, you're just like Twilio," when we tell them that we use APIs to use the service.



But I think it is completely different. Twilio is for people who don't really want to bothered with running the infrastructure. (My thought here is that if this is true, Twilio is perfect for some companies.) So is Tropo.



Most people are okay with paying 2 to 3 cents per minute which in the world of VoIP is reasonably high to deal with traffic. They just don't want to be burdened with it. 


We specifically target those who do want to run their own infrastructure, who do want to take on the responsibilities associated with finding the best carrier, filing one's own taxes, figuring out how to get computers into various data centers.


Our main target is more towards: how do we get the CLECs on board, so that we can enhance their infrastructure versus offloading their infrastructure? We can offload their infrastructure, and that would be one of those times, the only time when we would be similar to some of those other companies. That is really not our core focus.



The core focus is how do we strengthen and how do we optimize people's own voice-switching systems, and how do we help them monitor and manage those systems? But, they are their systems. 


Twilio and Tropo want to be the system that you use and rely on. That's a very different model. 


6. Suzanne Bowen: Where can people go to find out more? Contact info? Blog? Business profiles? Conferences? 


Darren Schreiber: Go to www.2600hz.com. On the top right, you'll find our blog. We try to put engineering-related blog entries up there that talk about our infrastructure and what we're up to, but also some of our outlook on the market. There are also access to our deployment tool, our carrier services access and some other items that may be of interest, but I suspect most people will want to play in the open source tab.


One thing we haven't mentioned is to be clear ... the platform that we are talking about is open source, so we want and encourage people to download this for free and install it. The only way that our company is successful in optimizing infrastructure is if we lower the price and make the barriers to entry non-existent. That's kind of our goal. 


We make our money on monitoring and consulting and making sure the thing is running. But we don't really make our money on the software. That we give away for free and rely on the community to help us optimize it and enhance it. So, I think if you go to www.2600hz.com, you'll find a lot of resources there.


There's a very helpful video on the front page that tells you exactly what we do. It takes about two minutes to watch, and it pretty much summarizes everything quite nicely. That would be my suggestion for getting in touch with us. 


6. Suzanne Bowen: I like the idea of the video. It's very important. Our company uses video in every facet of our services. I started using video to share testimonials, marketing, and so on back in 2006 during some of Jeff Pulver's VON shows, and about two years later, our CEO Rehan Allahwala began emphasizing the effective use of video.


What about conferences? I heard that you would be at ITW next week? (The writer of this blog has already received an email from a visitor to the 2600 Hertz table at ITW, and his comments are, "I met with Patrick from the 2600Hz project, looks like they have a very interesting project."


Darren Schreiber: Yep! We'll be in Washington DC at ITW. We have a booth there, so you should be able to find us. I think it is a little farther to the back. If you hunt us down, we'll be there. We also have some upcoming podcasts and speaking engagements. 


7. Suzanne Bowen: I'm really hoping that we'll meet up face to face at some of the conferences. I can't go to ITW, but I'l be at some other ones that are listed at http://www.didx.net/events or http://www.techistan.com/events such as ITExpo West in Austin in mid-September 2011.  


And so Darren, before we close out this podcast, what about trends that you see?


Darren Schreiber: I'd rather point you to somebody else's writing. One of the best things that I have run across that's been in response to the GigaOm article is by a gentleman named James Barnes who's been in wireless for 16 years. I've never met James Barnes. We haven't even chatted, but this article popped up on my radar as a response to the GigaOm article. He titled it "Death of the Phone Call is a First World Problem." He basically talked about how voice is being commoditised to feature status, and I think he's absolutely nailed it as to what we are really up to ... frankly better than I could have. Check out http://www.affenstunde.com/2011/04/death-of-the-phone-call-is-a-first-world-problem/ to see what is discussed.

2600 Hertz Project's media engine is powered
by FreeSwitch. At least six of 2600 Hertz Project team and also I (Suzanne Bowen) will be at Cluecon in 2011.

 The slideshow shares a chart/diagram and a couple pictures regarding 2600 Hertz Project.

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