Thursday, March 31, 2005

Vonage Canada - 1 Year Here!

This afternoon (Thursday), I attended the very enjoyable open house at Vonage Canada's corporate offices in Mississauga, which is just west of Toronto. They were celebrating one year of service in Canada, and the mood was good.

Like Vonage in the US, they are positioning themselves now for a serious run to be the alternative broadband voice provider. They have a nice marketing theme targeting the broad consumer market, with the catchy tag line "I VoIP With Vonage". Lots of ads splashed on the walls with photos of all kinds of everyday people flashing a "V" with their fingers for Vonage.

The use of "VoIP" in the tag line seems at odds with most of the broadband VoIP marketing out there, which tends to focus on the service offering rather than the technology. It's early days yet, but I'd argue that the mass market - especially in Canada - is not familiar enough with the term VoIP to really know what it means, and how it relates to what they're using now for voice. I digress.

Spoke with Bill Rainey, their President, and Joe Parent, their VP of Mktg and BD. Not surprisingly, no one is saying how many subs, but they're "meeting expectations". Not sure what that really means, but Vonage is making the most noise in Canada about consumer VoIP among the pure plays. Primus Canada may have been first to market, but their profile has been lower, and I suspect they will not keep pace with Vonage Canada once things ramp up.

The good news is that Vonage Canada now offers LNP and 911, which of course are must-haves, especially to compete against the MSOs and ILECs, who are starting their moves.

As with the US, Vonage is pioneering the use of retail channels, and in Canada are partnering with Staples Business Depot, Radio Shack, as well as London Drugs in Western Canada. The message I'm hearing is that other large partnerships are in the works, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them launch deals with major branded outlets such as department stores or grocery stores.

Finally, as often is the case, interesting stories always seem to happen around things like this. The Canadian ILECs have been staying out of consumer VoIP until the CRTC clarifies its position, which right now is not sympathetic to the incumbents. However, in Quebec - where things like this tend to happen - Bell Canada suddenly announced VoIP service in three Quebec markets. This was not likely a ploy to steal Vonage's thunder - Canadians are far too polite!

Rather, this was a direct challenge to the CRTC, who the incumbents see as taking too long to reach a decision on VoIP. Quebec's major MSO is Videotron, and they recently launched VoIP on a small scale in South Montreal. Seems clear that Bell is saying they are not going to wait around for the CRTC while an MSO competes uncontested in their back yard. Now THAT is very un-Canadian, and indicates the state of unrest and uncertainly among those who want to bring VoIP to the market.

It will be very interesting to see what happens next now that the ball is in the CRTC's court. What would Michael Powell do?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

In The Beginning....

... there was Frost. Frost & Sullivan that is. This well-known analyst firm was one of the first, if not the first to cover VoIP in the late 1990s.

I inherited Frost's VoIP coverage when I joined the firm in February 2001. Telecom hadn't quite gone over the edge yet, but it was getting pretty close. VoIP was new to me then, and within a few weeks, I was sent to attend my first conference, Spring VON 2001 in Phoenix.

I still remember everything about it - the buzz, how new it all was, the buzz, meeting Jeff for the first time, more buzz, seeing an NHL game when it's 95 degrees outside, some more buzz, and seeing the Commitments at Jeff's party. Still have the shoulder bag - I wonder what that might get on ebay some day?

I've been covering VoIP ever since for Frost, and I give them credit for sticking with it through good and bad times, as many other analyst firms cut back or dropped their coverage altogether. However, I've reached a point where I had to move on, and here I am.

I left Frost at the end of this February and have gone back to my roots in independent consulting. Frost's VoIP coverage remains strong, and they'll continue to do good work in this space(

And so concludes the IP book of Genesis, at least in my world.

Welcome to my blog!

This is my very first blog entry, and I'm grateful to Jeff for giving me this forum to share my views on IP, and hopefully generate some thought provoking discourse.

Going forward, I'll be posting things from a variety of perspectives. I'm still an analyst at heart, and will comment regularly on developments in the IP sector. Look for my thoughts in my next posting about Kagoor, who was just acquired by Juniper ( This is just one of many dominoes that will fall as the IP landscape goes through rapid consolidation this year, and maybe next.

Being based in Toronto, I'll be commenting regularly on the Canadian IP scene, which is distinct from the US, but exciting in its own way. Of course, with Voice on the Net Canada coming here next month, I'll be doing my share to keep Canada in the limelight (

I'll also use this blog as diary of my media citings, so this will be a good place to track where I'm talking to the press.

Finally, as my blogging skills develop, I'll build up my links to share with you other blogs and industry resources that I find useful. Along the way, I'll inevitably slip in connections to the other passions in my life, such as the Red Sox, blues, jazz, classic rock, piano, guitar, cinema, comedy, and good writing. And - the occasional posting from my kids, who I think have a lot to say about how technology is shaping their lives, and ultimately ours.

And of course, I very much welcome your comments - and I do write back!