Meet Voxox, the OTT CLEC
Voxox is one of many over-the-top (OTT) messaging applications developers on the market, but where it diverges from its peers is that it's actually been a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) since 2008.
And today, it's adding "Android consumer app provider" to its resume.
Voxox applied for CLEC status -- a process CEO Bryan Hertz called a "huge regulatory pain in the neck" -- in order to support the company's B2B unified communications services. As a CLEC, it's able to provide free phone numbers on the PSTN as any operator would do, allowing its customers to make and receive phone calls and texts across any network. (See TelCentris Launches a CLEC.)
But Hertz doesn't see the other service providers as his competition. Rather, it's the slew of OTT apps from startups such as WhatsApp, Viber, and WeChat, which have attracted hundreds of millions of users between them, that are on his hit list.
Voxox entered the fray today with its own cloud-based OTT app for Android, as well as an update to its iOS app. The apps include voice, chat, video, social media, content sharing, and good ol' faxing from a unified interface. Users get unlimited free calling and texting with other Voxox users, and "super low rates" for calling and messaging contacts on other mobile networks or landlines.
Voxox's big advantage, and what makes it unique among the WhatsApps of the world, is the network interoperability it can provide, thanks to its CLEC status. Hertz is hoping that value-added functionality will also attract operators with OTT ambitions to become its partners.
Hertz says Voxox can offer operators a better quality of service than Skype along with the innovative flavor they're looking for as their core businesses get disrupted. It has already signed deals with several small carriers in Africa, but he says the company is in "various stages of the process" with around 50 other operators. (See The OTT Opportunity for Operators and Embracing OTT.)
"I think they are battling a force that won't be easily stopped," Hertz says of OTT apps, adding that they're generally more nimble, have different revenue-generation expectations, a single focus, and don't have to worry about cannibalizing legacy services. "It's difficult for operators who are used to buying technology from vendors like Huawei and Ericsson to be innovative and compete in the space," he adds.
Of course, Voxox isn't the only one promising to help operators get in on the action. Just this month, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) tapped Jibe Mobile to co-market its OTT app, and Genband Inc. acquired fring to help its operator customers build their own white-labeled OTT experience. (See Sprint Jibes With OTT Comms, Sprint Plots RCS-Laden Path to VoLTE , and AT&T Asks for a VoLTE Phone for Christmas.)
Hertz recognizes the competition is plentiful, but believes Voxox's CLEC structure, and the fact that it's not constrained to the rich communications services (RCS) protocol like some of its competitors, will help set it apart, especially as operators build out their voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) strategies. (See Verizon Beefs Up LTE Network, Nears VoLTE and AT&T Plans 4G Voice Launch This Year.)
"Cheap VoIP rates and features on top of the VoIP line that still have QoS will be very important in the future," Hertz says. "Technology is advancing to the extent that people are expecting better quality. If [operators] leverage it properly, they will have the advantage. We hope to work with them closely to bring the advantage to the end users."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading