VOIP services

SunRocket Smolders During Stall

The majority of SunRocket Inc.'s VOIP subscribers lost service for about seven hours on Monday, July 11, due to what the company calls “recent surges in subscribers and call volumes.” [Ed. note: Is that a good thing?] (See LR Insider: Residential VOIP Exploding.)

SunRocket spokesperson Brian Lustig tells Light Reading the outage came in two separate “blips” during business hours, the first lasting five hours and the second lasting two hours, and affected the majority of the company’s 25,000 subscribers.

CEO Kevin Bennis issued a frank and contrite email to subscribers the next day: “On behalf of SunRocket and all of our dedicated employees, I would like to apologize for any inconvenience that resulted from a SunRocket network disruption that occurred on Monday, July 11.”

SunRocket has nowhere near the advertising budget that competitor Vonage Holdings Corp. has, so it relies on word-of-mouth to attract new customers (see Insider Sees VOIP Battle Royal and Vonage Off the Hook).

“Unfortunately, one of the partitions in our network was unable to handle the demand,” Bennis explains in the note, “and it took several hours for our engineers to fully restore the network.”

During the week prior to the disruption, SunRocket was installing new hardware and software to double its network capacity, Bennis says. But engineers had not begun rebalancing the network load on each side of the new partition when the outage occurred, Bennis says.

And so to avoid any hard feelings, SunRocket customers will receive 10 free points on their rewards accounts, Bennis says in the email. [Ed. note: That's better than a Golden Ticket!]

SunRocket launched national service last December, Lustig says, and now services “all the NFL cities” and about 55 percent of the U.S. population. The company expects its coverage to rise to 85 percent of the population by the end of this year.

The Va.-based company offers a full year of VOIP service, which includes unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada, for $199. Long-distance calls to the most frequently called countries range from 3 cents per minute (Australia) to 14 cents per minute (Guatamala). (See Does VOIP Business Add Up?.)

Calls to not-so-frequently called places are all over the map. Tajikistan, for instance, can be reached for $24 per minute but calls to the Vatican cost 3 cents per minute.

SunRocket was founded in early 2004, and its management team features two former MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP) executives and two Colt Telecom Group plc (Nasdaq: COLT; London: CTM.L) veterans.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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