Joining the IM/VoIP groundswell, Santa Clara, Calif.-based TelTel last week announced the launch of an ambitious program wherein carriers, ISPs, ITSPs, CLECs and others can sign on as SIP Virtual Network Operator partners.
What this means in practical terms, is that within a matter of weeks from joining the program, such service providers can offer their customers branded SIP-based IP telephony combined with instant messaging and 'presence' features.
As comparisons with Skype are inevitable, let's get to them straightaway.
Both offer the same basic feature mix: in addition to the aforementioned instant messaging and presence, free PC-to-PC calls, low-cost call origination and termination to the PSTN. TelTel also offers a modest array of availability notification and 'call me' features in the client interface. Skype offers three-way conferencing and, as an extra-cost option, voicemail. TelTel does not offer conferencing or voicemail in the normal download-and-sign-up version, but these features are available in enterprise deployments, which SVNOs will be able to provide.
Skype is thought to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million active users; TelTel claims about 1.3 million, worldwide. TelTel uses SIP as its underlying messaging protocol; Skype's is proprietary. TelTel is built on a managed peer-to-peer Internet telephony backbonedesigned specifically for SIP trafficwhich they've dubbed the PsipTN or Public SIP Telephone Network; Skype runs over the untamed Internet.
Partnering for prosperity
The combination of the PsipTN platform and the TelTel softphone client make getting into the telephone business a quick, low-effort, turnkey endeavor for would-be partners, according to Benedict Tse, vice president of product management at TelTel.
Potential partners include, "ISPs, CLECs, and other people who are looking for a VoIP solution, especially the IM soft-client approachsuch as content providers looking for distribution channels," Tse told VoIPplanet.com.
"Portal sites will be able to utilize this type of software," he continued. "With the acquisition of Skype by eBay, we think a lot of portal sites will be looking for this type of solution."
"The SVNO program gives partners a solution where they can get into the phone business almost overnight. Maybe a month," said Tse. "There is a small cluster of servers they will need to install, mainly to improve the sound quality, and to route messages within the network" That is, if most of a partner's communications are within their own network, they can localize that voice traffic within their network and avoid having to go need to come all the way out to the PsipTN.
Like Skype, TelTel will probably charge its basic (individual) customers a modest fee for PSTN termination and/or origination. As the software is technically still in beta, final details of pricing are still being worked out.
For SVNO partners, the company will charge a startup feea customization feethat's mainly a development cost. Then there is a license fee, based on the number of lines. "After that we'll be doing revenue sharing on the service they sell," Tse said, explaining that TelTel can supply a complete billing system if neededor interface with the partner's billing operation.
"Back on the TelTel side," Tse continued, "we're planning to offer value-added serviceslike conferencing capacity, PBX functions, and so on, so we can collect value-added service rev streams as well. Those value-added service can be offered to SVNO partners as well.
Tse also pointed out that if partners have their own infrastructureorigination and termination capacityor phone numbers, these can be utilized within the SVNO program.
With customer premise equipmentphones, adapters, etc.TelTel users can buy off-the-shelf hardware and it will work.
"Traditionally, the VoIP service provider, has to purchase the IP phone, preconfigure it to work with their network, and ship it out to the customer," Tse explained. "With TelTel, anyone can go to BestBuy or Costco and just buy an off-the -shelf SIP phonea model supported by TelTel. As long as they have a TelTel client running already, the client can transfer the user info and password to the IP phone. After the phone is configured, they can just turn off the computer and start using the phone," he said.
Yesterday, at the VON trade show in Boston, TelTel announced its first SVNO partner, Taiwan based Seednet, which is described in a press release as "the leading Internet Service Provider in the greater China region."
Late next month, the TelTel service will be available to Seednet's 250,000 DSL broadband subscribers, under the cobranded name Wagaly TelTel.
"Asian ISPs offer 'everything,'" Tse explained, "even products. Seednet has a very strong billing relationship with the customer." "As our first SVNO customer, they paid a pretty large lump sum to get a customized client with e-commerce capability. They've already started offering services on the content tab, so a user can go in and purchase products through the soft client. They have been in the portal biz for some time so they fully utilize the capability of the soft client," Tse concluded.
Clearly there is more to the IM/VoIP business than just chatting with friends and relatives.