April 1, 2006
By Tara Seals
WHILE MOST U.S. MVNOs to date have focused on the consumer with enhanced entertainment apps, Cbeyond Communications has taken the niche-player vision in a different direction with its MVNO offering, BeyondMobile. The provider targets small businesses with an unheard-of proposition: shared wiredwireline minutes.
Cbeyond, which made a name for itself in the VoIP market, bundles all calling minutes together regardless of service network. In the six markets where Cbeyond offers VoIP landline service Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston and Los Angeles its small business customers can apply any unused landline minutes to the mobile service and vice versa for free. Cbeyond also lets small businesses pool all mobile minutes across employees. The application of minutes and overage charges is seamless to the user, and customers receive a consolidated bill for all of the landline and mobile communications services, and have one number to call for support.
The majority of existing customers are using Cbeyonds flagship landline VoIP package, which runs $495 per T1 line and comes with six local phone lines and 1,500 long-distance minutes. Additional lines can be purchased for $40 per month, with 500 minutes that now can be used for long-distance or mobile, as needed. Thus, a small business with the landline package and three mobile phones will have 3,000 minutes that all employees share between them, whether in the office or on a wireless phone; once those are used, if businesses go over their allotted minutes, additional minutes are 6 cents each.
The idea is to make cost-control simple. This is the No. 1 service our customers have asked us for, says Brent Cobb, vice president of mobile services for Cbeyond. This addresses two critical needs: simplicity and predictability.
The standalone BeyondMobile service, carried on an unannounced CDMA operator, is available nationwide, with no roaming charges, for $40 per month for 500 monthly minutes; the LG LX-225T handset is the MVNOs first device. Optional upgrades include unlimited Internet access and text messaging. Users also get 20 directory assistance calls, which also can be shared with landline users.
Our mobile plan is 500 minutes, and we set the threshold low so that customers will consume them, says Cobb. Unlike every other carrier out there, were not interested in making money on breakage.
The service includes e-mail, contact lists and calendaring; Cobb says integration with its other managed services is on the roadmap, such as security,Web hosting, conferencing, offsite PC backup and storage, fax-to-e-mail and others. We have a host of data services for the landline that will eventually be moving into mobile, he explains, although no timeline has been decided for that rollout.
The service provider also hopes to gain a bigger share of customerswallets with a consultative sales approach. The company sends in one of its direct salespeople it has 50-to-70 reps in each market or relies on one of its channel partners to sit down with a customer and explain the services.
Cbeyond Communications www.cbeyond.net
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