VoIP is in many ways similar to a jigsaw puzzle, a collection of parts and pieces that come together to make a complete offering.
Even those touting "end-to-end" solutions find themselves enmeshed in far-ranging networks of partners and providers whose products and services are needed to make a complete picture.
Case in point: Las Vegas-based CommPartners Connect.
Links in a chainThe company aims to bring IP communications to the small and mid-size business market through a number of offerings including IP trunking, hosted contact center, and fully hosted IP PBX services. This takes teamwork.
For its hosted contact center platform, for example, the company partners with applications provider Transera Communications, just one of a number of alliances that make up the CommPartners Connect jigsaw puzzle. Customers for this service include Allegiance Air and Velocity Networks.
Another puzzle piece is Packet Island, a provider of VoIP lifecycle management solutions which CommPartners Connect uses to monitor IP communications deployments among SMB customers.
The company's other products include a nationwide network service and delivery platform for Linksys One, an IP communications solution aimed at smaller businesses.
Further, as a CLEC in 49 states and the District of Columbia, the company leverages its four-SuperPOP infrastructure to provide termination services for a number of telcos. These services account for the bulk of the company's revenues today, according to Mark W. Peterson, executive vice president, sales and marketing.
Who's buying?Put it all together and what do you get?
"We have a network, we have a portfolio of services that appeal to the small and mid-sized business market, we have national coverage with local telephone numbers throughout the United States and we have very competitive numbers [pricing] at the wholesale level," Peterson said.
All that's left to do is sell the stuff, which CommPartners Connect does through a white-label wholesale product, whose customers include Velocity Networks, C3IP, and American Broadband Service.
Lately the company also has been reaching out to interconnect dealers looking to add value to their SMB contracts. For these, CommPartners Connect will manage the relationship at a more detailed level, setting a retail price and billing the end user directly, something the typical interconnect dealer isn't interested in doing.
Everyone wins. CommPartners Connect adds new users to its roster, while the interconnect dealers enhance their profile among their customers. "These folks are trusted advisors to the small and mid-sized business owners and we make it possible for them to provide an IP solution for those customers," Peterson said.
By any other nameWhen it comes to landing those many and varied types of clients, the company has lately reinvented itself, at least in name. While it has been working since its 2003 launch to brand itself as plain ol' CommPartners, in summer 2007 the company launched a new web page and its new extended moniker, CommPartners Connect.
The marketing move came for reasons both philosophical and practical.
On the one hand, Connect helps to better define the company's offerings in the eyes of potential resellers, Peterson said. Hosted PBX, hosted call centers, trunking services: It's all about connecting.
In addition, they needed a better URL.
The URL www.CommPartners.com belongs to a web conference company in Maryland, and so the telephony company had been using a .us URL -- to its detriment. "There was a fair amount of traffic that intended to go to our site, but went to the other site," Peterson said.
Nor has a lame web address been the only challenge. The company also has labored to ensure that outside partners can deliver when it comes time to get product into the hands of the end user. "It has taken time to develop a knowledge base, to understand how to do it most successfully," Peterson said.
To ensure voice quality, and address other performance that can arise during implementation, CommPartners Connect puts partners through a certification process that can include multiple-day seminars on both sales and technical subjects.
Backing up all these efforts is a $50 million pool of venture money and private investments. While the VoIP space has heated up, increasing competition for funding, Peterson said the company has been able to land backing thanks to the depth of experience among its leaders, some of whom go back 20 years in the industry.
CEO and founder David Clark served as a senior VP with MGC/Mpower Communications from May 1997 to January 2001. He played a leading role there in securing nearly $1 billion in private equity.
Work on the puzzle long enough, it seems, and you learn how to make the pieces fit.