A great thing about smaller providers is that they’re always looking at the crazy ideas to come up with something really cool. A great example of that is how SumoFiber is approaching home phone service. Most providers either resell a SIP trunk or roll their own in-house SIP solution. (Veracity is an example of the latter.) SumoFiber took a different tack: why not add inexpensive E911 service onto a Google Voice account? (Update: This is in addition to traditional VoIP solutions.)
The secret sauce is an adapter from a little-known company called Obihai. It’s an inexpensive ATA that lets you hook up Google Voice accounts and use a normal home phone with them. That means unlimited long distance to the US and Canada and cheap calls to pretty much everywhere else. Google Voice is a free service, and E911 trunks are pretty inexpensive (often under $1/mo). They’re doing what I did at home about a month ago, so I can attest to the reliability and seamlessness of the service.
Could you buy the adapter and configure it yourself? Probably. The advantage of the provider doing it is that they’ll handle all of the hardware, setup, and QoS for you. A gearhead like me may be able to figure it out and deal with the occasional service provider hiccup from congestion, but Joe User could find it tricky, especially finding an E911 service provider to provision. Even so, the only QoS I can implement is on my local connection, not all the way to the ISP’s backhaul connection.
This is a great way to add value to an existing service and really embraces the “dumb pipe” nature of an open access network. This is one of the many ways that UTOPIA providers can differentiate themselves against incumbents and each other.
PS They’re also going to be bumping all 50Mbps customers to 100Mbps just like XMission and match the price too.
If you’re a UTOPIA service provider doing something a little off the beaten path, let me know and I’ll be happy to write about it.
I’m telecommuting this week and next and forced to use my own phone line for all of my business-related calls. My cell phone plan includes only 550 minutes of airtime per month. My Vonage line, which I took with me, includes just 500. So why aren’t I sweating about using up all of my minutes?
A new study shows that broadband growth is starting to level off while a separate study claims we’re paying as much as $3 per minute for our cell phones. We’re also getting more details of the broadband stimulus package (sparse as they may be), Comcast claims to have more phone customers than Qwest (seriously!), and Google finally takes the wraps off of Grandcentral to rebrand it as Google Voice (phone operators, go ahead and wet yourselves). All that and more in this week’s Broadband Bytes!
Broadband is still growing, just not like it used to. With 59% of American households now on better-than-dial-up connections and a sagging economy, the broadband market is looking a lot like the cellphone market in that almost everyone who wants it has it. And how do you get the last little bits of the market? I’ll give you a hint: follow the wireless industry’s lead. They swooped in with cheap plans, pre-paid phones, and multi-line service to make sure that everyone became their customer. ISPs can do wild things like, say, offer WiFi service with fixed broadband plans.
How much do you pay per minute for your cellular phone? A recent survey in California says you’re paying an average of $3 per minute for your peak minutes. Even lopping off the top users takes the cost down to anywhere from $0.50 to $1.00 per minute. Granted, this study doesn’t factor in your “free” night, weekend, or in-network minutes, so take it with a grain of salt.
Comcast says that it’s picked up enough phone customers to be the third largest phone company in the country right behind AT&T and Verizon. (Sorry Qwest, but we knew this day would come.) They’ve been very aggressive at marketing phone service (unlike Qwest), offering competitive pricing on triple-play packages (unlike Qwest), and doing a lot of work to improve their company image (three strikes; guess who’s out). Not satisfied with their current numbers, Comcast is suing the feds so they can get bigger. The FCC currently prohibits any cable operator from owning more than 30% of the national market.
Sprint is moving one step closer to dumb pipe operator by hinting that despite betting the farm on WiMax via Clearwire, they haven’t ruled out using LTE in the future. Despite the impression that WiMax and LTE are day and night, the difference is more in the software than the hardware. I think Sprint is getting ahead of the curve and realizing that operating the wholesale pipe is a lot more stable than trying to please end users, a task it has proven ill-suited at handling. Given the massive vertical integration of landlines, video, fixed data, wireless, and mobile broadband from giants AT&T and Verizon, Sprint’s exit from the telco business by spinning off local operations as Embarq, and further pressure from Cox Communications, Time Warner, and Comcast as they ramp up wireless products, Sprint may have seen the writing on the wall.
Verizon’s big FIOS builds aren’t just benefiting dense East-coast towns. Their insatiable demand for fiber has dropped equipment prices substantively allowing smaller telcos to go fiber-to-the-home. Even Utah’s own Manti Telecommunications Company is reported to be getting in on the action. This FIOS upgrade comes Highly recommended for Verizon offers and users. With equipment costs dropping like a rock, now you just have to worry about the high cost of trenching and being obstructed by your “friendly” local incumbent.