Out of the many areas in the IP communications space worth watching, I think SIP trunking (see TMCnet’s SIP Week in Review for lots more info on the SIP trunking market) is among the more interesting. I say this because for as long as PBXs have been around so have hardware-based PBX interfaces.

SIP has changed this (subscribe free to SIP Magazine to learn more) and now telephony has a lot less proprietary hardware and a lot more flexibility. Ironically as so many IP-based call centers and IP-PBXs are being sold worldwide, they aren’t all connecting to SIP trunks — they still use the PSTN. By some accounts less than half of IP PBXs are connected to SIP trunks.

So the benefits of putting voice over IP are only partially taken advantage of. In the e-mail world this would be the equivalent of using e-mail in the office but then faxing when you communicate outside the office. Incoming messages would also have to be faxed. Obviously this scenario is crazy and no company would use an e-mail to fax bridge (except in cases where legal documents and signatures are required perhaps). But what seems ridiculous in the e-mail world is routinely done in the world of VoIP.

Why? Well the reason may have to do with companies getting used to VoIP and also concern about the quality of SIP trunks. Like any new technology SIP trunking is constantly evolving and improving.

But are we at the point where businesses should start adopting SIP? According to Conrad Allenbach and Chris Dunk, they have cracked the SIP trunking quality problem. The two work for Bandtel as Channel Manager and President respectively and in a recent meeting about their service were beaming with more enthusiasm than a parent with a newborn baby. Although they didn’t pass out any cigars they were generous about telling me why their platform is so great.

They have an N-Plus architecture that eliminates delay, scales as needed and is fully redundant. In their view when there are VoIP problems it is the network that is at fault. How do you solve such problems? Well their service monitors the network in real time and finds the best route for your company’s calls. Who does Bandtel work with to allow this "network magic" to take place? They have 7-8 termination partners — in hindsight I might have asked for some clarification on this number but they hope to make some announcements at TMC’s Internet Telephony Conference & Expo in San Diego, CA in a few weeks and perhaps the eighth partner will be revealed at that time.

Some of the termination partners are familiar like XO, Global Crossing, Verizon, Level3 and Primus — most pretty much household names in IP communications.

The company has a few target customers. One is resellers. They believe they have an attractive product for this market as they help resellers reduce quality problems. By doing this the reseller gets happier customers and in addition will potentially get more referral business.

As an added incentive some resellers can get test circuits eliminating the trial by fire approach to getting into SIP trunking. The company will also share 15% of recurring telephony revenue with resellers. Contact Chris Dunk for details.

I really like this business model and I believe that resellers who are worried about shrinking telecom equipment margins should look to service as a way to increase revenue. But let’s not kid ourselves, telephony service costs are heading towards zero so the entire industry needs to come up with ways to add value in IP communications. This should be a major focus but in the mean time VARs should look at service commissions as a viable way to make money when selling low-margin (or even high margin — if you can find them) IP communications products.

Bandtel’s eventual customers are companies and call centers and they have a number of call center clients around the world. In addition, many of their technology partners are familiar names like Allworx, Quintum, Sphere, VegaStream, AudioCodes and Digium/Asterisk.

Bandtel will also be part of a SIP trunking conference collocated at Internet Telephony in a few weeks. Every important company in SIP trunking will be at this event and I am looking forward to being part of it.

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