Having written about enhanced services in the telecom space for about a decade or so it is refreshing to see so many companies beginning to talk about them. You see it is obvious we are on our way to cheaper and cheaper phone rates so the more sticky services providers create the better off they are. In many cases developing enhanced services is not so difficult to do — you just look to an idea that is working somewhere else and modify it to fit into your particular situation.
An example of this is the digg model that took elements from other websites to build a community of democratized news aggregation and dissemination. And just like that the founder of digg found himself owning the 91st most visited website in the world according to Alexa. That’s a rags to visits story if I ever heard one.
These are the thoughts that came to me when I had a chance to sit down with Rich Koch the President & CEO of RNK Telecom. You see RNK is a company in a nice position in the VoIP market. They are a wholesaler providing 100 companies VoIP service and they have 10 billion minutes a year going though their switches.
Over time they saw some of their customers doing well and others who weren’t. They learned over time what worked and what didn’t. They decided to get off the retail sidelines and pick up a ball and get into the game. Of course this was done with a launch and the name of the new company is ReVoS Internet Telephone Services.
This in and of itself is pretty boring. After all, there are lots of VoIP providers — even more than the hundred RNK provides wholesale service too. So I pressed a bit asking what is different about the ReVoS service.
Generally when I ask questions like this from VoIP service company execs they immediately go into how they will undercuts Vonage. ReVoS is certainly no exception to this rule and there are some significant savings to be had by switching to ReVoS.
An example is a service for $24.95 per month that allows all you can call to China. By adding a feature you can easily call China from your cell phone as well. When you realize many cell phone rates to China cost $.80/minute you understand why this is a pretty sweet deal.
ReVoS has done an admirable job of providing the market with a myriad of international long-distance bundles that are more cost-effective and more enticing than run of the mill providers.
But getting to features the company owns a URL called SubjectTalk which is a really interesting voice community site. It is similar to a chat room with multiple rooms. There are rooms for sports, food, politics and other topics.
The service is pretty slick but in a test on a Sunday night I didn’t see a tremendous amount of activity on the system. One of the features worth mentioning is the ability to hit *6 to make sure you never have to talk to a specific individual. All calls are anonymous which is really great for someone who is lonely and looking for some companionship.
Rich envisions being able to connect news stories to this service so at the end of an article there can be a phone number where people can call in and discuss the topic anonymously with others. In addition once users are speaking they can ask the system to provide a disposable number for 24 hours where callers can call each other and still stay anonymous.
The goal of this service is to voice-enable communities.
So a look at RNK VoIP shows a wholesaler, retailer and community builder. If you are looking for the optimal VoIP cushion, these are three business models that give you some diversity while allowing you to leverage your core competency. Rich tells me RNK is a software house and they hope to keep innovating. I am looking forward to seeing more enhanced services coming to the ReVoS brand and I am sure they will help the service differentiate itself.
Now for the multimillion dollar question, will SubjectTalk become the killer community building application of the next ten years? Is it the digg of VoIP? While it is tough to say there seems to be ample opportunity for a service like this to get adopted by newspapers and websites that have huge communities to begin with. They can generate revenue with ads — the advertisers looking for new ways to make a splash online. There seems to be nothing to lose in this model and all that it needs to get it going is some initial buzz and perhaps a marquee customer like a major newspaper or news site.
One thing is for sure, the new services that could turn heads in the world of VoIP may be ad-based model and it makes sense to see how companies like Google have monetized their community and emulate their success in the world of IP Communications. By the way, if you have any comments on this article you will have to place them on my blog for now because TMCnet isn’t currently a SubjectTalk customer. Perhaps we should be.
Where is the largest community of IP Communications decision makers going to be in a week? At Internet Telephony Conference & Expo learning about IMS, IPTV, VoIP, SIP, collaboration, open source, voice peering and more. If you are a service provider, reseller enterprise decision maker, member of the press, investor or analyst — you should be there.