Bandwidth.com is a veteran provider of Internet access and broadband-based voice services. Last March, the company acquired dash Carrier Services, best known for its innovative 911 service offering. Last week the two entities announced that the resources of dash and Bandwidth.com’s wholesale division have been combined into a single business unit: inetwork.
“But more important than the brand inetwork,” senior vice president and general manager Steve Leonard told Enterprise VoIPplanet.com, “it’s the launch of the largest aggregate voice and emergency services network in the country—the culmination of the vision we talked about back in March.”
Indeed, the network provides voice services for some very heavy hitters, including Skype, Google Voice, and Pinger. According to Leonard, inetwork’s approximately 500 enterprise and carrier customers—up from about 200 just a year ago—boast more than 24 million subscribers—again, an increase of about 85 percent in the same time period.
Phone usage on the network has also mushroomed—about 120 percent year over year, according to company stats. “We’re on track to top one billion minutes a month in use by year’s end,” Leonard said. That’s definitely big.
We asked Leonard to what he attributes the company’s “ridiculous” growth rate (as he put it). Was it finally having all the pieces in place, or was it due to underlying changes in the industry landscape? “It’s a little bit of both, but it’s mostly the latter,” he said. “inetwork is growing rapidly because we’re catering to companies that are growing rapidly, that are innovators, that are using non-traditional forms of communications, which is exciting for us.”
Leonard stressed his characterization of inetwork’s customer base as innovators. “They don’t view telecom as the traditional hardware, servers, wires, pipes; they view it as software,” he said. “They’re used to developing software and integrating with software. That’s what inetwork has been able to do: combine together the traditional broadband voice and the traditional 911 service. We’ve combined it into inetwork and turned it into software.”
Not only does this integration of voice and emergency services allow the innovators to innovate, it serves the needs of more traditional carrier-partners as well. With inetwork, “they have somebody they can go to who’s fast and flexible and easy to work with and a one-stop-shop,” Leonard said. “They can come to us and get both voice and emergency. Traditionally you had to piece this together; you had multiple partners and multiple integrations. Now you’ve got it all with one company.”
Of course not all inetwork’s customers currently avail themselves of the emergency services component—Skype and Google Voice being two significant examples. These companies and their ilk have so far been exempt from providing 911, because “the old 911 network didn’t lend itself nicely, easily, conveniently, natively to supporting new services like that,” Ray Paddock, vice president of product and emergency services business development told VoIPplanet.
Nonetheless, the FCC is currently reconsidering the question of what voice services will be required to provide 911 service, and may well reverse the earlier policy. “We don’t know how the regulations will turn out,” Paddock said, “but for companies like that, we’re a safety blanket. It’s knowing that we’ve got them covered—to be able to supply the services that they need.”
“If they need support on the 911 side, that would be great,” Leonard chimed in. “We can do that in a relatively easy and cost effective manner for them—using the same kind of APIs and software they’re used to using.”
In addition to 911, the inetwork offering includes some intriguing non-standard modes of communication, most notably text messaging (SMS). “We see SMS as the largest form of communication, in terms of the number of messages in the U.S., as well as the world,” Leonard stated. “So, it’s important to us to keep up with that and provide, ultimately, different forms of communication than just voice.”
Accordingly, inetwork’s voice network and all its phone numbers are now SMS enabled. “You can send an SMS message from your device across one of our phone numbers in our network, and ultimately terminate it and receive one back,” Leonard said.
In fact, the company is currently working with the state of Alabama to roll out next-generation 911 service, which, among other things, can use SMS for emergency services messaging. “We think SMS is going to be a huge component to both VoIP services and emergency services going forward,” Leonard said.