Startup Launching VoIP in Three Markets Today

by Colin C. Haley

A new venture from former MCI executives aims for national rollout within the year.

A startup founded by former MCI executives is launching Voice over IP service in three markets this week.

SunRocket's service went live to consumers in Baltimore, Boston and Washington, D.C. this week and plans to be in all major U.S. markets by year's end.

The privately held, venture-backed firm is entering a crowded space with deep-pocketed startups (Vonage), telecom giants (Verizon and AT&T) and cable operators (Comcast, Time Warner) already vying for customers.

Co-founders Paul Erickson and Joyce Dorris said their company will stand out because of its "no-gotcha" approach to dealing with customers.

"SunRocket has a unique package," Dorris told internetnews.com "We're the first [VoIP provider] to go with all-inclusive [services], including taxes, that's a big point with consumers."

Subscribers pay $24.95 per month with no activation charges or fees. Like other VoIP services, it requires a DSL or cable modem broadband connection.

Vienna, Va.-based SunRocket provides a dozen calling features including voicemail, caller ID with name, call waiting, 3-way calling and call forwarding. Additional benefits include an allotment of free international minutes and two 411 calls per month.

Erickson, who oversaw MCI's market research for 10 years, said he doesn't believe the Baby Bells and cable giants who are packaging VoIP with broadband have an edge in persuading users to try VoIP.

"One thing is very clear, consumers aren't looking for more stuff from phone company or cable company," Erickson said, adding that customers are tired of getting "nickeled and dimed."

He pointed to America Online's success in amassing dial-up customers as evidence that a simple, usable product can work.

Erickson and Dorris have already convinced some investors. Nokia Venture Partners, the investment arm of the mobile telecom company, led SunRocket's initial financing round. The amount raised was not disclosed.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Nov 2nd 2004