Do we still need Phone Numbers?

In this day of email, Facebook and Skype, you may wonder if there is any meaning or value to a phone number.
After all it is just one of many methods (and not the most convenient of them) to contact someone

With IP communications moshe@flatplanetphone.net could be my phone number in addition to may email address. Voice communications are just another
way of sending bits and bytes from one person to another. The popular SIP protocol supports multiple types of media so in fact if you dial moshe@flatplanetphone.net from a SIP phone you could reach me.

That being said why are people still willing to pay large sums for 212 area code numbers (hard to get numbers in Manhattan)??
In fact at The Flat Planet Phone Company, we actually make a nice profit out of selling local phone numbers from over 50 countries to our call center customers. Our research has shown that companies who have local numbers and use our Dynamic CallerID for calls to other countries see the number of calls answered go up by 30% in some cases. Some of our Forex customers have over 30 numbers each in a different country to make it easy for traders to bet on the latest currency moves!

It seems that some habits are hard to kick. People feel comfortable with phone numbers that they know and recognize. We still “dial” a phone call, even if we are clicking on
our computer screen to make a call. My friend the blogger, Andy Abramson pushes people to say “call” and not “phone call” since many calls are not made on phones anymore. But it is not easy for people to change.

Who knows, maybe our grandchildren won’t make “phone calls” to “phone numbers” but in the meanwhile even in this digital age they are still here to stay!

Where have all the bloggers gone??

My Google Reader subscribes to 44 VoIP related blogs. Lately I noticed that much less posts so I decided to do a little research, and here are the results –

1. In the last month, only 27 have any posts at all
2. On the average I now receive in my reader about 8 VoIP related posts a day as opposed to 25-30 a day a year ago.
3. Personally – my blog The Flat Planet and a Phone has seen only one post in the last month

What happened to all the bloggers? Are they they blogging less? Why?
In review it seems that some of the semi-pro bloggers like Jeff, Andy and Luca are still blogging regularly and some like Pat are blogging less. However all of them, like myself are pretty active on twitter and facebook!

In my mind that is the answer! For most of the ideas I want to express, twitter is a great solution. True there are more complicated issues that you can not fit into 140 characters, but once you get use to twittering your ideas it ain’t easy to go back to legacy blogging!

Do you blog? How has twitter changed your blogging habits? How has this effected your business? I know in the past customers have come to us as a result of reading my blog. Will the same customers find me on twitter? I would love to hear your comments!

Big News – Thomas Howe joins Jaduka

When we met last month in Miami, Thomas hinted to me that he was about to make a big move. Well yesterday the news came out that he is joining NetworkIP subsidiary, Jaduka as CEO. Some of you may ask Ja-who? So here is some details of the company as described by Alec Saunders

Historically a player that has shunned the limelight, NetworkIP nevertheless built a solid business – 6 billion minutes of traffic annual — on providing hosted calling card services to vendors wishing to develop retail products without needing to buy infrastructure. Last year, NetworkIP announced Jaduka – a subsidiary focused on monetizing the infrastructure built by NetworkIP in a different way. Instead of providing hosted calling card services, Jaduka would deliver voice services to enterprise via APIs that could be integrated with business processes.

There is no question about it that Thomas, definitely one of the smartest people I have met since I started my VoIP adventure is the man for the job. As Andy Abramson wrote -

Mr. Mashup. He’s the king and well documented here in the past for his accomplishments. He’s also the former CTO of Comverse and well versed in more than just telephony. Thomas gets data. He nails business process cold. A solid two way player, Howe would be as comfortable in the executive suite as in the lab, as his infectious personality, quick mind and agile programming ability makes him a consistent high scorer.

Unfortunately I can not make it to Ecomm this year, so I will salute him from here. Good luck my friend and bon voyage!

Live from ITEXPO

ITEXPO opened a few hours ago in Miami. As in any trade show the most exciting part is meeting up with old friends and catching up on their new ventures…

In the first 3 hours, I ran into Andy Abramson, Ari Rabban, Rich Tehrani, Alex from Voipswitch, and many more. Jon Arnold was nice enough to invite me to participate in a panel on considerations when starting a ITSP, which was fun.

My most interesting meeting and that which probably warrants a separate post — was with Erik Lagerway and his partner and Trent Johnsen from SMB Phone - the distributor of Microsoft Response Point in Canada. Erik once an innovative Asterisk developer is now firmly in the MSFT camp! According to him, MS RP is the best IP PBX for small business, bar none.

I definitely look forward to learning more about the Microsoft offering, after all it is not every day that someone like Erik defects from the Asterisk camp!

The Last Frontier?

Looking back, one of catalysts that pushed me into the telephony business was an article that Harry Newton wrote in 1995. Harry for those of who are not familiar with him was in his previous life the outspoken publisher and editor of the Computer Telephony magazine. As I recall, Harry wrote about the uniqueness of the telephone business, where you can sell the same product for 2 cents or $5 dollars. Newton’s law of telephony pricing (my naming) stated that the exact same “minute” can be packaged and marketed in endless ways with umpteen price points.
Harry Newton
Reading that made me realize that there is plenty of room in telephony for creative marketing. The small guy can play on the same level as the big guys. Took me about 10 years and eventually I did find my niche in the business. Meanwhile VoIP replaced Computer Telephony, the costs of minutes went down and while there is still some flexibility, the game is on fractions of pennies and the Minuteman is no longer king. Today as we all know the money is in features, functionality and ease of business processes.

So is Newton’s law dead? In the landline market probably, but it is live and kicking in the mobile market. A call on a mobile from NY to London can cost 2 cents or $5 depending on carriers, roaming fees and other miscellaneous tariffs. Savvy subscribers know how to play the game and some, like our friend Andy Abramson have multiple phones, sim cards and phone applications to squeeze the most out of his telecom dollar.

However most subscribers are victims of price gouging. I have more than once met travelers who have come back from a trip with phone bills of 4-5 THOUSAND Dollars! Either they are not aware of the price saving options or more likely they do not have the time and patience to use them. For the last 2 years I have been looking for a mobile solution that is low cost but more important – invisible to the user! Most people hate to dial codes, install software, change SIMs etc. They just want to dial from their contact list and talk!

Well that is going to change :-). The Flat Planet Phone Company will be introducing a unique LCR (low cost routing) engine for the mobile market at the upcoming ITEXPO show in Miami. Developed by an Israeli startup , this solution together with our successful hosted VoIP platform for resellers (set up your own phone company in an hour) will be a great solution to sell to businesses.

How does it work? Pretty straightforward. It works on all cellphones even those that are not smartphones. The account manager defines on the LCR server his costs when dialing direct and when using cost saving options such as callthru, callback, SIP over wifi/3G etc. Then all his users receive a SMS text message and synchronize their contact list with the server. The server automatically configures each contact on the contact list to dial in the most cost effective way. The process is invisible to the user. The dialing method is the same. Pick out a contact and dial.

No more big bills. No more excuses. Come to Booth 924 in Miami and check us out!
If you can’t make it – drop me a line at miami@flatplanetphone.com.

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VoIP is far from dead!

LG-Nortel IP Phone 8540Image via WikipediaReading Jon Arnolds post on TMC , reminds me that in the VoIP service industry for the last few years we are used to hearing 2 voices at the end of each year.

The first voice with the superficial view is always there to tell us how VoIP is dying and hey look Vonage the voip poster boy is almost bankrupt. Then you have what I call the smart people like my friends and fellow bloggers, Andy Abramson, Jon Arnold, Ken Camp, Thomas Howe and others who realize that VoIP is all about unlimited functionality and not at all about cheap calls!

With that horizon in sight, the news is that VoIP is just beginning. Businesses are only starting to understand what they can do by integrating their communications with their business processes. At the end of the day it is all bits and bytes – so why not?

At the Flat Planet Phone Company (where my salary comes from) it is amazing how many projects are coming together. Business people are starting to get it!

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