6 Companies to Watch in 2015

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

6 Companies to Watch in 2015

Here are 6 companies that will be interesting to watch in 2015. In light of the consolidation - and pending mergers - there will still be some interesting moves in telecom.

First up is Sangoma. Why? Because Sangoma has acquired all the key assets of Schmooze Com Inc and all the outstanding shares of RockBochs Inc.. So Sangoma jumped down the rabbit hole that is Hosted PBX with this purchase of FreePBX and Fax over IP service. Why is this a rabbit hole? There are 2000+ folks doing this. Sangoma knows next to nothing about being a service provider (and quite frankly the FreePBX guys know how to package a business for sale). So who runs this service for the channel partners that you hope sell it? Who services it? Who installs it? Garrett Smith is bullish but I see too many companies struggling in the space as it is.

[REMOVED by company request.] Voxox has its SMS and SIP services, which 2 channels sell - a dealer network and an agent channel. This will be the first full year for the channel - catch Voxox at their booth at ITEXPO.

Birch completed the acquisition of Cbeyond on paper in July - and delisted from the stock market (no painful public scrutiny). In October, an executive team was announced. I want to see what this organization does now. I have seen Birch with other (much smaller) acquisitions where it just strips out the revenue and cuts off all the rest of the stuff that doesn't seem interesting. Remember that Cbeyond wasn't firing on all cylinders BEFORE the acquisition, so imagine now that the smaller Birch is trying to integrate the larger CBEY while going national and cloud and IT (when it used to be POTS, DSL, copper).

Panterra released Smartbox last year. It was an out of the box idea to spread the word about Panterra Cloud UC service. I'm interested in seeing if it had much conversion.

Microsoft changed the name/brand of Lync to Skype for Business. I think that was a mistake but they didn't ask me. There is a lot of noise around Lync, err, Skype4Biz in the partner community. There was confusion before on the different versions of Lync -- now with a name change and a product merger (sorta) we'll see if it gets much traction. I know Greg Plum will be evangelizing UC&C with Lync some more in 2015.

The sixth one isn't a company but an association: the Cloud Comm Alliance. Alteva had a management shake-up. Masergy seems to be doing okay. RC is the noisiest member. Telesphere sold to Vonage. So what happens to the association and the quieter members of this org?

What about the CLECs? Windstream just changed CEOs suddenly and are still trying to launch the REIT, so distractions abound for a company that can't afford it.

XO has been quiet, but the CEO sent out a letter to partners today. "Customer churn and customer retention numbers have improved substantially. We reduced churn by 23% in 2014." This metric - while some of it is not in their control due to resale, affects their brand - "Service Delivery placed additional focus on delivering circuits on the Customer Requested Due Date. The XO Business Market Solutions organization improved from 73.1% on average for the first half of 2014 to 82.4% for the last half of 2014."

The final point I took away: "XO successfully executed an agreement in Q1 to secure $500M in financing to fund the XO Connect Initiative. With that funding, we are on track to bring 177 buildings on-net in 2014 against a plan of 125, and have 800 buildings in the construction funnel." So about 177 good contracts in 2014.

As quiet as XO was, EarthLink and Megapath were even quieter. Except for a CEO change at ELNK, nothing big happening there. I think most larger CLECs spent 2014 in strategy. 2015 we will see if any of them can execute.

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