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.
Spanish Fork has let a few more details out about their new voice product in a recent article in the Deseret News. The service will be $14.95/mo and long distance will be billed at $0.04/min. Triple play bundles will run around $84/mo, better than most introductory offers from competitors. The city has contracted with Veracity to provide the service and plans to test with about 50 customers over the next month before a general rollout.
With all of the battering that municipal networks take in the media, it’s good to see some bright spots here and there.
Spanish Fork is one of the more unassuming municipal systems in the country, making around $400K per year for city coffers while providing some rock-bottom rates for service. In fact, news about them is often few and far between. The Daily Herald reports today, however, that they’re upping the stakes with new voice service. The city is targeting a rate of $15/mo, even cheaper than what I pay for the limited use Vonage plan. No word yet on what features will be included, but it would be hard to complain at that kind of rock-bottom price.
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?
Comcast is looking at sneaking in data rate increases after all. Their plan is to upgrade various tiers of service to higher speeds with accompanying higher rates. If you want to downgrade to a lower-priced package, tough noogies: speeds under 12Mbps will be gone except for a 768Kbps “value” tier. Competing providers should be able to snap up a lot of customers by offering a slower and cheaper tier between the two. T-Mobile is also raising rates on data packages, but with a 10GB monthly cap and terrible ping times, few are likely to use it for primary access.
Telcos are hurting but cable could stick around for a while as coax offers a good chunk of bandwidth. They do, however, feel the pinch from the massive amount of bandwidth eaten up by video services. Even as SDV and DTA boxes ease some of that up, the demand for higher-quality signals to all of these shiny new HDTV sets will eat up a lot of the gains as cable operators are forced to move from 480p to 720p and 1080p signals. Competing providers will need to move quickly to offer true HD signals with low compression and superior data rates while the cable companies perform system-wide upgrades over the next 18-24 months. There’s something said for being first to market.
It also appears that DTA boxes could be a sticky subject. CableONE asked the FCC for a waiver for a HD-capable DTA box with integrated security. This could shut out CableCARD (and possibly Tru2way) as well as a number of third-party devices like TiVo DVRs. Manufacturers are already pushing these boxes which could very well kill the Carterphone of video before it gets off the ground. Competitive operators will see the opportunity to be fully interoperable with CableCARD and Tru2way and ensure that customer DVRs will work on their systems.
Local programming is in high demand, but there are some chinks in the incumbents’ armor. Since local programming options like high school sports, General Conference and rebroadcasts of local news are so popular, competing operators should mimic what Comcast is doing and look into an old-school public access channel.
Remember how Broadweave constantly hammered on the importance of owning thier own phone switch? Apparently it’s all talk and no walk. An insider has revealed that Broadweave resells phone service from Veracity for all of the customers they acquired from MSTAR on the iProvo network. With Broadweave unable to control all of the SIP session from one end to the other, it sounds like subscribers should be prepared for more of the finger-pointing game when their voice service experiences issues. That’ll be a great selling point for the marketers from Telerus, won’t it?
This same insider has reported that MSTAR plans to follow suit and switch their customers on UTOPIA from using NGT to Veracity. They would join Nuvont in selling white box services from Veracity and make XMission the only current provider to not do so. This will reportedly result in a loss of dialing features, voice mail boxes and even some toll-free numbers. Subscribers had better prepare for the worst.