Vonage's Loss Is Small Business's Gain

Former Vonage VAR, ISI Communications, has launched its own 'SIP trunking' VoIP offering for SMBs.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Oct 20, 2005
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Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Vonage's recently terminated Business Plus VoIP offering, ISI Communications this week announced iSIP, its own SIP trunking VoIP service for small businesses. The Vonage program, first announced as a beta test in August of this year, and employing a network of VAR/resellers, was cancelled last week.

ISI was part of that VAR/reseller network. In fact, according to Paul Salva, ISI's CTO, "we were their first VAR. We did their test pilot in Milwaukee." However, problems plagued Business Plus from the start. According to Salva, Vonage had troubles over local number portability, incrementally expanding service deployments, securing virtual numbers, and the like. "They just kept promising and promising, and we just kept losing business—leaving business on the table—because we couldn't fulfill it," Salva told VoIPplanet.com.

"So I went out and created our own SIP trunking features, and I certified it with [SIP PBX vendor] Epygi and [SIP media gateway vendor] AudioCodes—IP PBXs or devices like AudioCodes' that convert from SIP to analog," Salva continued. "We started selling the service and fulfilling a lot of those orders Vonage couldn't, and then last week, Vonage came out and said they were going to discontinue the program."

Illinios-based ISI is no startup; it's been around for more than a decade, offering cost saving telecom services to small businesses normally served by ILECs and CLECs. Its iSIP service is now available anywhere in the continental U.S. and can be delivered to any SMB via broadband Internet connection. ISI's roster of service-provider partners boasts numerous household names, such as MCI, Sprint, and Broadwing.

In addition to the preconfigured SIP service packages, the company is offering VoIP equipment and installation and support services, for a one-stop-shopping solution. ISI's iSIP services include porting local business phone numbers—as well as toll-free numbers—to VoIP, new local and toll-free numbers, and flat-rate local and long distance 'minutes' packages.

The next big buzz-word
So, what is SIP trunking? As the name suggests, it involves a Session Initiation Protocol-speaking broadband Internet connection (as opposed to TDM phone connection) direct to the telephone service provider. Why is this significant? Whereas intra-organizational VoIP typically travels on the enterprise's private IP WAN, VoIP communication outside the organization still involves circuit-switched handoff to the PSTN.

With SIP trunking, these handoffs are handled through the service provider's SIP network at significantly lower cost. Calls destined for the PSTN are carried over the provider's IP backbone to the PSTN gateway closest to the destination. Tolls on such calls drop significantly since local rates apply, and fewer intermediary carriers are involved in handling the call.

That's not all. With SIP trunks, many of the recurring costs of maintaining multiple PSTN connections and dedicated PSTN interface hardware go away.

But does the SIP trunk require upgrading a company's phone infrastructure? By no means, according to Salva. Nor does the customer have to have a PBX, IP or otherwise. SIP trunking works in all these situations.

"If a company has only 4 or 8 POTS lines, we drop in the appropriate [gateway] device to take it from SIP to analog lines," Salva told VoIPplanet.com "If they had a full PRI (definition) coming in from the phone company—a dedicated long-distance pipe—we'd drop a dedicated SIP T-1 gateway right off their Internet connection that would then hand off a PRI to their PBX. In other words, we would replace the telco channelized voice PRI with a PRI right off one of our devices."

According to Salva, "a lot of people are finally realizing that you don't have to replace your phone infrastructure to get the benefits of VoIP. Cisco has been out there forklift upgrading everybody with their VoIP stuff. Companies are spending tons money to go to VoIP. And they're still handing off TDM to the phone company!" ISI is happy to offer small businesses an alternative.

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