Twitter Exchange on Arbitrage

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

Twitter Exchange on Arbitrage

This will be a strange post but Alex Balashov and I had a Twitter exchange today about the telecom industry and its relentless pursuit of arbitrage plays. From long distance to calling card to SIP trunking, it's all about changing the bucket of minutes for something cheaper so someone can make some short change coin. Kind of ridiculous.

I asked where the Purple Cows are. Where's the HD Voice in my Hosted PBX? Where's the mobile component that is stupid easy? 

Alex doesn't like Hosted PBX. "As for Broadsoft, it's an overpriced waste of time. Not because it sucks- it is a very feature complete multitenant engine...its cost simply doesn't scale to what people are willing to pay for hosted PBX and dial tone. Shot up by commoditization." 

I think that there are two camps: one that thinks Voice should be free - and I hear that more from folks IN telecom than from buyers. And these folks simply do not grasp the stranglehold that the ILEC's have on the PSTN, which for years to come will still be the network of the final mile to end user. Yes, cellular is large and cable voice is growing, but most of that traffic still resides on the ILEC operated PSTN. ENUM and Voice Peering domestically in the US has not  reached a level that will cripple the PSTN yet, luckily. (What will we do when that happens?)

The other camp will gladly pay to reliably and clearly communicate with family, friends and customers. 

Maybe I am in the minority but I can't hear folks well on Skype, Magic Jack or cell phones. I for one would like less computer features on my "smartphone" and better clarity, volume controls, and speaker. But that's just me.

Alex does make a good point that all ITSP's need to pay attention to: "No process, no standardisation, no infrastructure = no chance of making money, on something that is a red sea to begin with."  What's a Red Sea? A bloody marketplace built on price, not value. "Develop business processes that can be replicated at decreasing marginal cost, standardize." That at least helps when you live in a Red Ocean.

The Starbucks of Telecom. Who is it? Alex suggests that it is "Ifbyphone, Callfire, and various niche call center and dialer vendors (far from all)." And certainly these companies offer a value add on in a niche way. However, who is providing the dial-tone while delivering a communications experience? (I don't know). I have a laundry list of stuff I want from my Hosted PBX vendor:

  • HD Voice
  • Easy access on smartphone
  • Easy transfer to/from mobile/desktop
  • Presence
  • Video capability
  • IM/Chat
  • Email-Voicemail Integrated mailbox
  • Voicemail text 
  • UM (unified messaging)
  • User portal
  • Click to call
Alex thinks that the Duopoly is getting better at delivering smaller transactions. I think that they still suck at it and it is costing them a fortune in acquisition cost. Then a fortune more in brand deterioration when people get frustrated with the experience. (Part of is it the B.S. marketing that they have been doing for years that raises the level of expectations to beyond the network to deliver. Can you say More Bars or No Dropped Calls or Best Network?)

Very few Purple Cows in our Industry. And if you think you are one, I suggest you talk to your customers. Why? Because while you may think you deliver a great service, your competitors are taking your customers.

Alex and I did agree that the way SIP Trunking is sold is yet another arbitrage play. "So, I think we agree - trunking in itself is a very mathematically exacting but mostly pointless waste of time.  As far as who captures the value in the non-enterprise VoIP space, you're absolutely right - the very few value-add vendors." 

It's food for thought from twitter.

Alex talks further about TDM - that it is still the winner in reliability, inter-operability, and call quality. 

"From a cost perspective that is a hard OPEX formula to meet. TDM is still the only reliable means of PSTN access. Stuff just doesn't work well. Eventually the smart ones widen up and get cheap TDM circuits, and ISDN gateway boxes. ... 90% of their technical overhead drops off, churn slows, but the margins take a dive unless they got a really good deal. "good deal" usually means meeting an IXC in a hotel and not paying loop on the circuit, just blended usage."

This leads me to wonder what ever happened to Voice Peering and ENUM? Well, one thing is that everyone wanted to start one. There wasn't just one. The rules and connection costs get in the way. Why didn't COMPTEL force its membership into a Voice Peering arrangement in 2005? Add in the Cable Industry, VoIP players, and Sprint's network of cellular minutes and you take a lot of the minutes out of the ILEC's PSTN. Costs drop. Or would they? Seems that the CLEC's would still want Inter-Carrier Compensation since some have this built into their financial model (as it were). Because Bell-heads (traditional telecom execs) don't think the same way that Net-Heads (IP execs) think. The settlement model would have to be forced on them. Even the FCC has balked at that for 10 years. 

Alex doesn't get my Peering point so let me spell it out further. Take Sprint as the manager of the Voice Peering Points in Dallas, NYC, LAX, CHI and maybe VA. CLEC's, cablecos, ITSP's could drop traffic either as TDM or IP on the switch and not pay for termination. A flat rate if you will. But Alex is correct that the settlement issues just won't float. Too many Bell-heads left in charge. 

To mean VoIP was able to take off for 3 reasons: broadband deployment, expensive TDM, and cellular acceptance of crappy call quality. We haven't come much further than that.

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