Comcast Rolls Business Voice Into the Cloud



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.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



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