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Comcast Rolls Business Voice Into the Cloud

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
3/27/2012
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Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has introduced a hosted PBX service that it will use to drive more commercial voice revenues as it continues to head upmarket to take on the telcos and target businesses with up to 250 employees. (See Comcast Targets SMBs With VoiceEdge.)

Comcast has the product, called Business VoiceEdge, deployed in its 14-state Northeast region and Chicago, and expects to have it rolled out in all markets by the end of 2012.

Comcast is pitching businesses on a platform that keeps up-front capital requirements low by tucking the PBX functions in the cloud, served (and backed-up) by MSO-run data centers located in Denver and Los Angeles. Comcast is leasing HD-capable handsets (Polycom Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) is its preferred supplier), basing Business VoiceEdge on the BroadSoft Inc. platform, and baking system upgrades and maintenance costs into the contract. The system also builds in a click-to-call app and unified communications features that, for example, let customers take calls and receive email messages from any location.

Business VoiceEdge is partly born out of Comcast's acquisition of New Global Telecom Inc. (a hosted PBX supplier) and a Chicagoland-area CLEC called Cimco Communications Inc. -- purchases made as the MSO sought ways to target larger business customers. John Guillaume, VP of product management for voice, and unified communications solutions for Comcast Business Services, estimates it took Comcast about 15 months to refine its new offering. He says "hundreds" of customers are already trialing VoiceEdge. (See Comcast to Acquire New Global Telecom and Comcast Snares a CLEC .)

Although large telcos like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are in the hosted PBX game, Guillaume believes the scale Comcast is bringing to bear will match up well with relatively fragmented market of vendors and service providers.

Why this matters
Business VoiceEdge will help Comcast round out its SMB portfolio and complement its Metro Ethernet-based data component. "This is a key piece for them pushing up-market," says Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Alan Breznick. Comcast's business services unit pulled down about US$1.8 billion in revenues last year, up 41 percent, but doesn't break out how much of it comes from voice services.

Among cable operators, Comcast is an early mover into the hosted PBX segment, though other MSOs are expected to join the fray in an attempt to stoke business service revenues. Optimum Lightpath , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)'s enterprise services arm, is already deploying it in a big way, and Cox Communications Inc. has also begun to deploy a managed IP PBX service in a few markets. Breznick believes Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), which now owns NaviSite (Nasdaq: NAVI), is also poised to make a sizable hosted PBX play.

For more



— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



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Jeff Baumgartner
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Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:38:00 PM
re: Comcast Rolls Business Voice Into the Cloud

And it is live. Comcast did put me in touch with a customer – Shawsheen Coating and Converting of  Andover, Mass. --  who's been using VoiceEdge for about a year under the pilot program for 4 lines and 22Mbit/s data and video  -- for about the cost it was getting for a 1.5-meg T1 line.  Zib Drelich, who handles the IT needs for them, was pretty candid that minor issues pop up here and there as one might expect with any SP, but said there hasn’t been any outages so far.  And that's been one of the issues that that caused him to look for a new provider in the first place.

 

They were previously using Broadview and, before that, Verizon.  Apparently the company is located in a remote corner of the town with some infrastructure issues, and the lack of upgrades had caused some lengthy outages.  He's also happy to say buh-bye to the PBX gear that he used to house on –site.  But he said the "clincher" was that Comcast provided the phones as part of the package… Drelich had previously budgeted for having to purchase that gear, so that was some capex he didn't have to shell out up front. JB

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