VoIP Systems

Is This Really Innovation?

1:30 PM -- So is this innovation by AT&T?

The telecom giant introduced a mobile PBX service yesterday that essentially uses an existing service from RingCentral Inc. , a competitive services provider. AT&T [email protected] is a mobile phone application that lets any small business set up and manage an office phone system, including mobile and landline phones, from an iPhone or a BlackBerry. (See AT&T Targets SMBs With Mobile PBX App.)

RingCentral has been selling its Web-based version of the service for years now, and was a pioneer in offering ISPs a way to offer VoIP services to SMBs six years ago. AT&T has taken that one step further by making it available as an app on an iPhone or BlackBerry, with Android being added shortly.

Ebrahim Keshavarz, vice president of business development and strategy at AT&T, says yes, this is AT&T being innovative by getting a service to market faster using a partner -- with which it has an exclusive deal, by the way. The fact that RingCentral has been selling its service successfully is only proof of its value, he says.

"This is part of our open innovation strategy -- we will partner with many different innovative companies, at different stages in their development," Kesharvarz.

AT&T [email protected] customers will pay for the new service on their AT&T Mobility bill, not separately to RingCentral, and get their customer support from AT&T as well.

The new service also is an example of how AT&T is using mobility to attack -- and defend -- the highly competitive SMB market. Keshavarz says small businesses with highly mobile workers -- real estate offices, construction firms, professional services companies -- will especially benefit.(See AT&T: Mobility Key to Retaining Small Biz.)

Coming back to the central question, however: Is this innovation by AT&T, a company that is touting its major internal innovation efforts? (See AT&T Gets Serious About Innovation)

I think so -- admitting that someone else has a better mousetrap and can get you to market faster is certainly smarter than trying to do everything yourself.

So, do you agree? Is AT&T innovating here?

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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