VOIP services

CompUSA, Sylantro Garnish VOIP for SMBs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- VON Conference -- Small-business PBXs, and the services that they enable, will soon be on the same store aisle as toner cartridges and spongy mouse pads. Sort of. CompUSA, Bandwidth.com , and Sylantro Systems Corp. say they're teaming up to offer a complete hosted VOIP service for the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market.

Bandwidth.com will provide the hosting and PSTN interconnection, Sylantro will provide the PBX software underpinning the service, and CompUSA will provide the retail shelf space along with some consulting and installation help.

The service will show up in CompUSA stores in April, the companies say.

The retail hosted PBX offering may be an attractive entrée into VOIP for small businesses, which are underserved by the phone and cable companies. (See Report: Enterprise Market Ripe for Cable.)

“SMBs in many ways are the most interesting market for VOIP right now,” says Heavy Reading analyst Graham Finnie. “Historically they have been poorly served by large telcos, but when we asked service providers which sector represented the biggest opportunity for VOIP, they voted decisively for SMBs.”

For Sylantro and Bandwidth.com, the deal with CompUSA can be seen as somewhat of a validation of the two companies’ focus on the SMB market, Finnie says. (See Microsoft, Sylantro Team Up .)

The CompUSA VOIP packages will start at around $550 per month for a five-person business and scale up according to the number of employees.

CompUSA customers who sign up will get many of the features common in larger hosted PBX solutions, the companies say. The Sylantro software, for instance, enables SMBs to integrate their voice service with Microsoft Outlook, and enables group calling and management, presence features, and find-me-follow-me capability.

According to Sylantro's marketing VP, Ron Raffensperger, the solution will not be quite as simple as taking home a shrink-wrapped package. Rather, he says, it will be sold as a service, one that requires a visit to prospective customers, a needs analysis report, and then some help with the installation and provisioning process. (See Sylantro Names Exec.)

CompUSA VP of merchandising Brian Woods tells Light Reading his company plans to target 50- to 100-employee companies with its hosted VOIP solution. Woods says 17 million such companies are operating in the U.S. today.

Bandwidth.com CEO Henry Kaestner says his company is hitting the market at the right time with its service, because many small business owners believe IP PBX solutions are reserved for larger companies.

“I think this is something more than just another retail store picking up another service,” he says. “I think this is major step toward VOIP becoming the de facto form of communication for small businesses.”

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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