A new Internet protocol (IP) voice network was launched this week by Bandwidth.com of Cary, NC. The company hopes to attract businesses interested in advanced features, such as the ability to make one phone number ring several phones, but who don’t want to pay for all the old phone infrastructure. It already has one very big customer: Google Voice.
Bandwidth.com’s chief technology officer, T.R. Missner, says the fundamental advantage of his company’s network is that it’s not bound by any legacy technologies, such as switches, used by the traditional phone system. Missner says that switches can create idiosyncracies in a network, leading to better or worse service depending on geography. But an all-IP voice network, such as Bandwidth.com’s FlexNetwork, should offer consistent services everywhere, he says.
Though Bandwidth.com says it built this network and owns it, in today’s world, that doesn’t mean the company laid any cable. Instead, it involves weaving together a system of Internet circuits, IP routing technologies, and connections to other telephone providers. “The hardest part and the longest pull is the interconnections with all of the various [carriers],” Missner says.
The FlexNetwork also offers interfaces that customers can use to write voice applications that take advantage of the network’s features. It can provide its customers with local phone numbers in any part of the U.S., for example. Bandwidth.com makes money by charging customers for those phone numbers, or minutes served.
Missner declined to talk specifically about Google Voice, but FCC filings from earlier this year reveal that Bandwidth.com provides the backbone for the service, which offers users one number that can be used to reach all their phones, and provides a number of additional features such as voice-mail transcription and the ability to receive text messages as e-mails.
Ifbyphone, a phone automation services company based in Skokie, IL, also uses Bandwidth.com’s network. Ifbyphone CEO Irv Shapiro says that the introduction of all-IP networks allows businesses to “treat the telephone like we treat a Web browser.” He explains that, just as companies can build applications that automate services for their customers through a Web browser, similar applications can now be delivered over the phone.