Voipfone Launches ‘Practically Free’ Calling for SMEs

London-based IP telephony provider Voipfone today announced the addition of a ‘self-service’ Virtual PBX to its product/service line. The hosted solution is aimed particularly at small and mid-size businesses, particularly distributed or virtual (office-less) ones.

The service involves no contracts, no installation or setup costs and costs only 99p (British pence) per extension per month—roughly $1.50 U.S. Calling to any other Voipfone customer is free. Voipfone has termination agreements with several providers, creating a worldwide network for off-net calls—at typically low VoIP-to-PSTN rates.

All extensions, regardless of location, have a full suite of PBX-style features: call conferencing, call transfer, voicemail, hold music, call waiting, caller ID, and three-way calling. Moreover, as the system is preconfigured and fully web-based, there really is no setup. “You just turn it on and it works,” said Inet Telecoms (aka Voipfone) CEO Colin Duffy.

Customers don’t need traditional phone lines, no matter the size of the operation. They do, of course, need broadband Internet connectivity. Then any computer-based softphone (Voipfone offers one for free), IP phone, or analog phone with a terminal adaptor can make and receive calls. This solution works anywhere a broadband connection is available, including public hotspots.

This makes Virtual PBX an ideal cost-cutting solution for companies with mobile workers, home workers, or branch offices in multiple locations. The extensions can be anywhere, and, again, calls within the network are free, Duffy pointed out. For internal calling, a company of, say, 20 employees would pay about $30 per month over the cost of Internet access—even if those employees were scattered across three continents.

The service is really built on a vision of a new type of work world, one in which companies—especially smaller companies—are increasingly distributed, even virtual. “We’re a virtual company, actually,” Duffy told EnterpriseVoIPplanet. “That’s how Voipfone came about. We were a hosting company, and we decided we didn’t like ‘going to the office.’ So we did away with the office—but then we found we were spending almost as much on phone calls as it cost to run an office. So we turned our energies to working out this technology,” he concluded.

We asked Duffy what percentage of calls handled through the Virtual PBX program were on-network, versus off-network. “I’m not sure, but it doesn’t make much difference,” Duffy responded. “We’re really not in the business of selling phone calls,” he said. The business model is, rather, selling sophisticated phone functionality such as enterprise conferencing, and the like. This makes good news for smaller organizations with big-time telephony needs.

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