Introducing iVPBX: (almost) Free Phone

Virtual PBX today launched iVPBX, an offering that combines the company’s hosted PBX solution with SIP-based VoIP service from Gizmo5 at a flat rate of $10 per seat per month—with unlimited inbound calling. “We’re selling a five-extension package for $49.99, and then the minutes are free, unlimited,” explains Greg Brashier, vice president of Virtual PBX.

Brashier says the new announcement stems from his company’s introduction last November of native support for SIP peering. “What Virtual PBX is trying to do is say, “We’ll peer with anybody that is doing real SIP—we’ll make sure that the calls go out in the background as SIP calls so we don’t have the conversions between the two different phone systems, and we’ll give you a really low cost because we’re not delivering the call onto the PSTN,’” he says.

And that has the potential, Brashier says, to serve as a significant differentiator. “Virtually everybody that’s in the hosted IP PBX arena today has been very proprietary—‘Use my phones, my VoIP, my client, my hosted PBX capabilities’—use everything from the same vendor… and what we’ve tried to do here is say, ‘Let’s push the idea of open systems to a new level,’” he says.

The point is that while Virtual PBX today announced a partnership with Gizmo5, the company is eager to work with as wide a range of providers as possible. “We’ve pushed all the pieces together and said, ‘The combined product is going to be a lot better than just using either of us alone,’ ” Brashier says. “We’d love to do that with anybody else that’s out there—and we are pursuing other avenues.”

In the case of Gizmo5, Brashier says, the combined offering provides a number of key advantages. “We’ve made sure that the systems work flawlessly together… and we’ve taken the step of putting out a product that specifically relates to that [at] a very aggressive new price point, so that people can get into the very best of a hosted IP PBX, using us as the front end and Gizmo as the back end—and get a richer feature set at a much lower cost than you get from the proprietary folks,” he says.

And Brashier says Virtual PBX is a strong believer in Gizmo5’s offering. “We have been using Gizmo in-house in our own systems for about two years now… and we believe that if you also like Gizmo, then we’ve got a great hosted solution to provide on top of that,” he says. “If, on the other hand, you’re not sure yet, we’ll get you into a trial on it: you can download the Gizmo client for free, and we’ll give you a free trial on the hosted services.”

While Virtual PBX’s standard offerings include a limited number of free minutes after which incoming calls cost between 4.4 and 6.5 cents a minute, the iVPBX solution includes unlimited free inbound calling, regardless of whether the call comes in over SIP or over the PSTN. “Hosted PBXs always, always have had a price per minute, and we’re simply doing away with it… we’re doing free calls no matter where they come from,” Brashier says. “If they’re SIP calls, we’ll take those; if they’re calls from the PSTN, we’ll take those—and we can do all of those calls at no charge, with unlimited minutes for every account.”

The only case where there will be a price per minute for iVPBX, Brashier says, is when a user needs to place a call over the PSTN. “If you send calls out to the PSTN, we’re going to charge you a nominal fee of 1.9 cents a minute… you can use this system with PSTN phones, cell phones, landlines, sea lines—we’ve got people on satellite phones—use it any way that you want,” he says. “It really gives you the flexibility to go any way that you want, but at very low cost… and if you use IP phones, the calls are free.”

At the same time, this isn’t the end of Virtual PBX’s standard offering—Brashier says there will continue to be a place for both solutions. “We believe that even some Gizmo users will continue to use [the standard plans] if their minute requirements are modest… This all comes because two companies, Virtual PBX and Gizmo5, have hooked up with the open systems idea, but we still believe a lot of our existing and future customers will prefer a $10 or $25 product, given the right usage needs,” he says.

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