For many vendors of VoIP-related products and services, going it alone is not really an option.
Vendors may have the wherewithal to provide certain helpful tools to the end user, but they still must rely on third parties for such crucial components as toll-free capability, call termination, phone numbers, and adequate bandwidth.
"Most of them have to rent all of those services from other competitive companies," said Bryan Hertz, CEO of San Diego-based TelCentris. A provider of VoIP and call center services to businesses and consumer users, TelCentris has moved to sidestep the typical approach by registering itself as a competitive local exchange carrier or CLEC (def.)in five states.
Two years in the making, the CLEC rollout is aimed largely at giving TelCentris a greater degree of control over the quality and price of its services. So far as price goes, being a CLEC "cuts out a layer in the middle," Hertz said. Bypassing the third parties should enable TelCentris to pass on "significant savings" to its customers.
Perhaps even more significant is the matter of control. "With any vendor, you dont really know what type of changes they might make at any given point. You have a variety of unknowns," Hertz said. As a result, "a lot of hosted IP providers and VoIP providers have a difficult time maintaining good quality of service from end to end."
TelCentris has formed a subsidiary, TelCentris Communications, LLC, to roll out its CLEC operations, which presently are live in California. CLEC operations in Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois are slated to go live soon, with a nationwide rollout expected by the end of 2010, Hertz said. Priority areas are those with the most populous metropolitan statistical areas.
TelCentris CLEC operations will support a number of offerings already on the table.
On the consumer side, TelCentris has been gaining traction with VoxOx. This free tool wraps together e-mail, IP telephony, social network, and instant messaging connections in a single unified dashboard.
For business users, the companys Hosted Contact Center Solution is a feature-rich multimedia call center application integrated into TelCentriss hosted IP-PBX platform.
An additional offering, the companys Service Delivery Platform, helps service providers bring unified communications tools to the end user. Hertz sees the Service Delivery Platforma turnkey, carrier-class solutionas a means for existing CLECs to build up their own offerings in a fast, cost-effective way. "If you are an existing CLEC, you have a hard time making money because Ma Bell has continually squeezed you. Even if you are still surviving, you are practically extinct," he said.
Of course the Service Delivery Platform also gives TelCentris an edge: With a single platform underlying all its offerings, development of new tools and tweaks, including the companys varied UC offerings, can move along swiftly.
"Most of these services are powered by the same platform, so it becomes a matter of slicing and dicing the platform in different ways to deliver different services using the same infrastructure," Hertz said.
With all these pieces in place, Hertz describes the move toward becoming a CLEC as the next natural step, a means of delivering these products seamlessly all the way down the line. "It gets us closer to the end user," he said. With the company acting as a CLEC, once a user makes a call, "it never leaves our network" up to the point of termination.
As such, TelCentris gains a level of control that Hertz says is unusual in the industry, eliminating the need to rely on outside vendors to complete the chain. In that sense, "the CLEC helps the company as a whole," he said.
On the consumer side, for example, TelCentris as a CLEC will be able to provide free phones numbers to millions of VoxOx users without incurring added expense. The company presently provides users with phone numbers, but it must lease those numbers from third parties. Here again its CLEC status will allow it to cut out the middleman.
This example demonstrates the kind of business model Hertz has in mind as TelCentris takes up arms as a CLEC. In an industry characterized by a kind of Frankenstein-esque cobbling together of components, he is looking to short-circuit the monster by constructing a seamless whole.