July 14, 2009
Evolving 4G, WiFi, WiMAX Technologies to Propel Mobility
By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor
The mobile industry represents the strongest segment in communications, the head of a Livingston, N.J.-based company that offers VoIP phone services for small business, home business or personal use told TMCnet in an interview.
According to Ari Rabban, CEO of Phone.com, the definition of “mobile” is ever-changing and expanding.
“New infrastructure and platforms that are yet to evolve (4G, WiFi (News - Alert), WiMAX) and the battle of the smartphones with Palm and Nokia entering the race and with mini laptop phones emerging as well,” Rabban told TMC President Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) in an interview (printed in full below).
“There is still lots of growth – and shift it the small business market – and we see new products and services coming out regularly,” Rabban said. “Many of them will combine with what we called FMC – but I don’t hear that phrase much these days.”
Rabban – who is participating in a pair of talks during ITEXPO (News - Alert) West in September, Fused Vs. Bundled – The Next Evolution of Operator Services and Best of Breed Vs. Best of Suite for UC – also said that the jury’s out on how President Barack Obama’s administration will affect telecom.
Their full exchange follows.
RT: What has the economic crisis taught you, and how has it changed your customers?
Ari Rabban (pictured left): The VoIP industry is approximately 13 years old (give or take). To all of us who have been there from the beginning we know the ups and downs of our segment of the telecom industry and internet industry and the economy in general. We all enjoyed the dotcom boom and as part of it the telecom boom and then the very bad dotcom bust years.
We have to combine it all in order to learn how to operate a business or a start up. Some things may not be applicable for all businesses but outsourcing and working with contractors as opposed to full time employees is one important way to weather the storms. Talent is out there, both sides benefit, the upside is always there but the downside is minimized.
Given that we sell a “value add – cost reduction” service we see how new customers benefit from our service. Attention to details, understanding what the customer is really looking for and communicating with them is key. At times like this especially a customer wants to know where he is putting his or her dollars.
RT: How is this down economy affecting your decisions to reinvest in your company or market, if at all? Where will you invest?
AR: We try and evaluate ROI on any investment, large or small that we consider. I already mentioned the focus on contractors and outsourcing where possible, and similar for marketing programs. The one place in my opinion where you can not cut is R&D. Sometimes it is easier said than done but any business has to be ready for the future.
RT: What’s the strongest segment in the communications industry?
AR: Without comparing earnings and analyst reports I would still say that the mobile industry has the strongest potential and that the definition of mobile is growing and changing. New infrastructure and platforms that are yet to evolve (4G / Wifi / wi max) and the battle of the smart phones with Palm and Nokia entering the race and with mini laptop phones emerging as well.
There is still lots of growth (and shift it the small business market) and we see new products and services coming out regularly. Many of them will combine with what we called FMC (but I don’t hear that phrase much these days?).
RT: With the rise of smartphones and netbooks, many wireless technologies, such as WiFi, appear to be poised for rapid growth. For example, we’re seeing more and more airlines add in-flight WiFi. In general, how widespread should WiFi be, in your view?
AR: Wow, I replied to the previous question before reading this one. Whether WiFi or not, improved wireless services are inevitable. Perhaps we should not say improved quality (at least not in the United States) because I believe we will still suffer from dropped calls because of bad coverage despite all the great commercials. As for wifi itself, if we define wifi the way it is today than it will be limited to “fixed mobile” or “cordless” equivalent. It is not the solution for roaming and hand offs.
RT: Which nation or region of the world will present the largest opportunity for your company in 2009/10?
AR: At Phone.com we are very much focused on the U.S. small business and mobile professionals market. With the introduction of new products and services during the second part of 09 and throughout 2010 we look forward to serve a larger professional market segment.
RT: In what ways is President Barack Obama helping or hindering the technology markets? What more can he do?
AR: I think it is still too early to tell. Certainly the vibes are positive, the blackberry president, the new Whitehouse.gov and the appointment of industry “friend” Julius Genachowski are all good signs. Hopefully the new administration will represent a “we get it” administration.
RT: What device or devices do you use, and what do you wish you used?
AR: I am still divided. Blackberry for email and iPhone (News - Alert) for surfing. If I had to only do calls I would still use only a small Motorola or Nokia. Did not try the new Palm and interested in testing the Nokia N97.
RT: What has the iPhone 3G taught us? I know it’s very new, but what about the Palm Pre? What are we learning from the smartphones based on the open source Google Android (News - Alert) platform?
AR: Everyone will chase iPhone. I am reading that Blackberry is all over it and we can all be sure competition will heat up between all players. The iPhone marketing machine is as we can expect and I am sure MBA marketing programs already are working on these stories (can anyone verify it with and academic comments?). Today I read that Google CEO should leave the Apple Board, I guess it makes sense.
RT: I understand you are speaking during ITEXPO West, to be held Sept. 1 to 3 in Los Angeles. Describe your talk and tell us what companies or people should attend.
AR: One of the biggest business market segments is the SOHO / VSB (Very Small Business) or simply the sole proprietor. With so many business phone and communication options out there how can they choose? What do they need? And what can they afford? In our panel discussions we will review these topics and also discuss how new technology allows for more and more solutions that were only available in front of a personal computer can now be offered on mobile devices. In many cases the end user enjoys an integrated solution that actually comes from different suppliers or combines different products. We will discuss how to decide between bringing to market a completely unified offering or bundling different solutions to enhance the offering.
We will review how offering new services improves the value of the service for the small business executive and at the same time increases ARPU for the service provider and for resellers involved.
I would invite professional involved in selling communication services to small business (as defined above) to attend our sessions, be it resellers, distributors, affiliate marketers or product or component developers that can be brought to market.
RT: Why should customers choose your company’s solutions? How do they justify the expense to management?
AR: Based on our target markets, all our offerings are extremely inexpensive. We would like to have our customers feel the following when coming to Phone.com:
- Customer service: we care; we listen; we respond! (24*7)
- Great value: wide breath of high quality features and application
- Low prices
Learn more about Phone.com at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Don’t wait. Register now!
Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan
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