Selling Skype: Can Partners Profit from Selling Peer-to-Peer VoIP to Businesses?

Channel Partners

May 21, 2008

5 Min Read
Selling Skype: Can Partners Profit from Selling Peer-to-Peer VoIP to Businesses?

Convincing businesses to rip and replace their existing PBX and telephony infrastructure is no easy task. And concerns about an economic downturn further tighten corporate purse strings, causing businesses to postpone indefinitely large-scale projects and IT spending. However, this scenario does not have to spell trouble for the telecom industry. A struggling economy creates new opportunities to help businesses lower communications costs, increase employee productivity and improve operational efficiency. One such opportunity is a new solution called a PBX-to-Skype application gateway, which enables SMBs to take advantage of VoIP’s cost savings and enhanced communication features without fork-lifting their existing phone systems by using the Skype bring-your-own-broadband VoIP service.

A PBX-to-Skype application gateway integrates the eBay-owned Skype service with a company’s existing phone system. As a result, businesses can tap into the world’s largest VoIP community to reduce communications costs and enhance the way employees, customers and partners communicate and collaborate. These plug-and-play appliances fully integrate with major legacy TDM and IP PBX equipment, so channel partners can migrate their legacy PBX customers to IP without a large investment, or sell value-added applications to SMBs that already have transitioned to IP PBXs.

How It Works

A Skype application gateway adds Skype trunks to a company’s PBX to “Skype-enable” every phone extension in the office. As a result, employees can make and receive calls from their regular office phones. There’s no need for the SMB to invest in IP phones, or roll out softphone clients and headsets to each desktop, reducing expense and management requirements. The solution also works seamlessly behind routers and firewalls without any complex configuration to bring new simplicity to VoIP.

By installing a gateway at each office, multisite companies can interconnect their locations with Skype to provide free Skype calling between company offices in different cities, countries and continents. An employee simply dials an access number on the office phone to access a free Skype line. This service can displace toll services or leased lines for interoffice calling for instant cost savings.

PBX-to-Skype gateways seamlessly link offices — even if an organization has a mix of PBX models and vendor brands installed at each site. The solution creates a unified phone system with global numbering across sites, so an employee in Los Angeles can dial an internal extension to reach colleagues in New York and Hong Kong.

Single-office companies also can realize cost savings for their long-distance and international calls through Skype’s new Unlimited U.S. and Canada, Unlimited Mexico and Unlimited World calling plans. Employees can make low-cost calls to any traditional long-distance or international landline or mobile number from their office desks using SkypeOUT. In many cases, companies can save up to 90 percent on domestic long-distance and international calling using Skype’s Unlimited World calling plans compared with other VoIP trunking solutions.

What about quality? While neither Skype nor other ITSP VoIP networks guarantee QoS levels, Skype utilizes intelligent call management for Skype-to-Skype calls to determine dynamically the best path to route a call over the Internet. As a result, Skype calls offer superior voice quality when compared with the best-effort routing on the Internet.

How It Adds Value

In addition to the possible cost savings, integrating a company’s phone system with Skype potentially offers additional benefits.

For example, a Skype application gateway lets companies seamlessly connect their remote employees and frequent travelers to the corporate PBX through Skype. With a Skype-enabled mobile phone or laptop with Skype client, telecommuters and road warriors alike can tap into a company’s phone system for free. As a result, remote workers can enjoy the same call-handling capabilities (like conferencing, voice mail, extension dialing and voice recording) as their counterparts in the office. And traveling employees can keep in touch with the office from anywhere in the world, without the high costs of international roaming charges.

Additionally, Skype can give companies an immediate local presence in any country where Global SkypeIN service is available. For example, a U.S. company looking to expand into global markets can give customers in Japan, Brazil, Sweden or Australia a local number. Customers get the personal touch of a number close to home, and companies can save on toll-free/8XX expenses.

Skype-enabled click-to-call is another value-added application that supports online marketing and customer service by tapping into Skype’s more than 309 million registered users worldwide. Companies can integrate Skype click-to-call technology into their Web sites, e-mail campaigns, Web banners and search engine listings. With a single click, Skype members instantly can talk to a company agent. The call is free for both parties.

How It Pays Off

For the customer, the PBX-to-Skype gateway solution requires little investment and is low risk — key ingredients to close any purchasing decision in times of economic uncertainty. The cost for a gateway from VoSky, for example, ranges from $1,250 to $5,000. And, it’s compatible with legacy TDM equipment, so there is no additional capital outlay required.

Savings from lower landline, mobile and toll-free bills promise a relatively quick ROI; many companies see ROI in as little as four months from just international call savings alone.

For phone system dealers and interconnects, an application gateway can be sold as an add-on to existing customers’ phone systems or even as an entry into new ones. Additional revenue streams are possible through add-ons like FXO/FXS cards. Remote management capability offers the opportunity to sell renewable service and support plans.

While telephony agents likely will view the PBX-to-Skype gateway as contrary to their business models, it can provide them with an additional tool to get in the door with new prospects or upsell existing ones by offering them an aggressive international calling plan or click-to-call solution that doesn’t initially cannibalize traditional revenue sources and might warm customers to other VoIP services. Declining margins also might call for agents to consider diversifying their revenue streams to include premises-based IP phone system options.

As vice president of global marketing for VoSKY Inc., David Tang oversees marketing communications, channel marketing, product management and strategic business development for the company.

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