Friday, March 11, 2011

Rogers Launches New SMB WiFi Service

Interesting launch today from Rogers here in Toronto. You don't usually associate wireless business services with cable companies, but Rogers is no ordinary cable company. They've long been one of Canada's major cable operators, but they got in the mobile game very early, and are #1 up here. Cable is a regional business by nature, but wireless gives them a national footprint, and that's where things get interesting for SMBs. The business market has always been the last great frontier for cablecos, and if you can't get in the door with wireline data and voice, wireless is the next best thing. Rogers has always been on the front end of the curve, and today's news is more of the same.

So, the new service is called WiFi Calling for Business. Rogers may be a tech innovator, but they could use a bit more creativity with their branding. Am not a big fan of their TV spots either, but that's another conversation. Anyhow, the name says it all, so I'm pretty much done. Sort of.

You may be wondering why a mobile operator is offering WiFi for their business customers. It's no accident that the incumbent telcos were the very last ones to offer VoIP - why kill the golden goose of legacy telephony? Clearly, market dynamics are changing quickly, and all carriers know that all voice will eventually be some variation of VoIP running over a data network. Rogers is simply being proactive here, and making sure they keep as big a share of wallet as possible with their business customers - most of whom are SMBs.

Basically, the service allows subscribers to keep their mobile calls going when moving out of network coverage by automatically switching over to WiFi. It's a pretty handy service, especially since the UMA software is embedded in the smartphone, and subscribers don't need any downloads or upgrades - they just need to be on the Rogers network. Not only does it keep your calls live when going in and out of places like elevators, office towers and garages, but it lowers your telecom costs by routing LD calls over less expensive WiFi networks.

Of course Rogers wants to maximize wireless revenues and usage potential among subscribers, and this service will definitely help do that. More important in my mind is the bigger overall trend toward mobility, which is where so much of our communications usage is going. Rogers is simply making it easier for SMBs to do that, and for now, they're the only ones in Canada who can offer this service. Just like they had an early monopoly with the iPhone, Rogers is first to market here, and like you, I'll be keen to see what the takeup rate is.

If you want to know more about WiFi Calling for Business, I can show you - and tell you with two links:

- today's press release

- RedBoard Biz - their SMB community blog, featuring a post from Duane MacDonald, and a 3 minute video interview with me, conducted by Miranda MacDonald. I should add that RedBoard, the host of the RedBoard Biz blog was 1 year old the day we did this shoot, so a belated happy birthday!

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