VoIP 1, Economy 0

What a fall season it’s been. With the economy uncertain, world leaders actually discussing the word crisis on a regular basis and layoff levels not seen in years, you would expect every industry to lie in shambles. In fact, many a sector has been really hurt by the slow down. Thankfully, IP communications is not one of them.

Recently Dialogic and LifeSize came out with pretty good news in the IP communications market. But sure enough, in an environment with the largest consumer confidence drop in history, you would expect growth in all companies to halt. One might imagine a drop off of 10% in business in many markets to be good.

But don’t even think about it. You see Comcast just announced that earnings in VoIP are not only good but great. How great? How about 42% in SMB VoIP and 44% in overall VoIP revenue? According to this article by TMCnet’s Gary Kim, the growth at Comcast will slow but not drastically – the company expects 450,000 adds this year instead of 550,000.

Now I know what you are thinking. This is an isolated case and the cable companies are enjoying the fruits of years of investment. Yes, that is a correct thought but it misses the point that Cbeyond too just announced great results. How great? TMCnet’s Michael Dinan reports this past quarter the company brought home $90.2 million in revenue, a 25% increase over the same quarter last year. That is 2,000 net new customers in the quarter to be exact. Are you getting this? These results are in the words of Don KingSplendiferous.
 

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So there is the good news. The bad is that Cbeyond had net income of $1.7 million or half of what it posted last year. The reason? Iincreased depreciation and amortization expense, recording income taxes at the full corporate tax rate beginning in 2008 and an increase in the Texas state margin tax.

Now I am no fortune teller and to be honest I used to get annoyed at the mainstream media for throwing around the word recession like it is going out of style. The media has gone one further and now talks about thinks like a depression like it is going out of style. Even permanent stock market bull Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money has started to discuss how his viewers should start to read books on the depression.

As you can imagine, this talk is not confidence inspiring and few people want to go out and buy a new luxury car (or anything else) with this sort of talk on the TV, radio and in other media outlets.

But still, I remain enthusiastic about many (but not all) sectors of the communications markets. After all, humans need to communicate and today’s technologies are more efficient, cost effective and sought after than those of the last few generations.

But there is more. Many technologies today allow remote work and cut down on travel costs. Sure, oil prices are headed lower (and as far as I know, no one but me predicts the price per barrel to hit $30) but an entry-level telepresence system can pay for itself in less than a year depending on how much travelling it cuts from company’s’ T&E budgets.

So we are headed into another rough patch from an economic perspective. This just means we all need to work a lot harder and do our best to service our customers and give them what they want. Remember to keep your company in front of your customers (no, one press release a day is not a metaphor or typo) and focus on providing products and services which pay back in the shortest time possible.

  • Peter Nutley
    November 3, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    If we are headed into another rough patch, we are lucky to have technology that makes working harder and servicing our customers easier — video conferencing and telepresence are two examples.
    Although most companies are familiar with video conferencing, telepresence has widely been considered a niche technology for large multinational corporations. But increased gas and travel prices, as well as improving video technology, are causing smaller firms as well to reconsider the high-end systems.
    Earlier this year, Marlboro, Mass.-based One Communications Corp. decided to spend about $500,000 to outfit two large conference rooms and four smaller rooms with telepresence in order to link remote offices. Now implemented, the company says the six video conferencing rooms are fully booked on most weekdays and since the technology has come so far, it is easy for anyone to use it.
    Also benefiting from video solutions is UK-based Vodafone. Vodafone eliminated 13,500 flights per year after the implementation of video conferencing solutions as a business tool — paying for its entire video conferencing investment within one year.

  • Dan Hoffman
    November 4, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Well said, Rich. This crisis will shake incumbent approaches bad, and accelerate adoption of the new. We continue to see strong growth, although the sheer panic is slowing the sales cycle a bit. But the maturity of Voip and SaaS couldn’t come at a better time: In a world where the economy can lurch 10% in a single day, companies have to focus on what they do best and get everything else as a service. Companies can’t afford to be tied down by fixed infrastructure. Another interesting note: our recruiting and executive office suite clients are growing more quickly than ever as people flow even faster in and out of roles and offices.

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