AT&T and Verizon Alternatives

When the Bell System monopoly on telephone communication run by AT&T was broken into “Baby Bells,” also called Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) in 1982, the monopoly on phone service seemed to be at its end.

The original anti-trust action by the Department of Justice was initiated in 1972, but legal wrangling stalled the final breakup until 1982. Thirty plus years later, I often wonder whether the quality of service has improved.  A quick online scan shows throngs of unhappy customers’ voices have echoing across forums and consumer advocacy sites.

Freedom From Telecom Bullies

Verizon is the other major player in the space, selling its phone service under the FIOS brand.  They also bundle internet access and TV service and deliver it over a fiber network. Verizon was initially known as Bell Atlantic, one of the aforementioned RBOCs. In 2000 it merged with GTE and re-branded itself with the name we know today. Now, with millions of customers across the country, Verizon too has been inundated by hordes of unhappy customers who complain about phone service and virtually every other service Verizon offers.

Fortunately, the telecom landscape has evolved in recent years and now provides businesses many alternatives to those two incumbent phone companies. The VoIP revolution has transformed the industry, so I’d like to suggest a few companies that we feel comfortable recommending to business clientele looking for a change.

Here are our top picks:

ShoreTel

ShoreTel targets mid-sized and larger companies, generally those that need 25 or more phones. The ShoreTel Connect product is a VoIP system that can be run as a managed service from the cloud, or as a system with its own hardware and servers that you manage at your place of business. Or, if you have multiple locations, you can install Connect as a hybrid deployment where certain locations are managed in the cloud while others are managed on site. The product supports IM, VoIP, conferencing, web sharing and video. Its allows users to move from an IM to a phone call, to an online meeting then to a desktop share that can include video, all with a single click.

Ooma

Ooma began as a VoIP provider for residential customers, then expanded into business services with a clear customer demographic: small businesses that need 25 or fewer phones. Ooma works with any traditional phone (of the curly cord variety), eliminating the need to buy IP phones. You can easily set the system up to ring remote extensions off premises, including employee cell phones which is useful for sales, service and other workers who spend time outside the office. This short video leads you through the basic setup process.

Broadview Networks

Broadview Networks, discussed elsewhere on this blog, serves more than 200,000 users every day with its OfficeSuite cloud phone system. It provides not only excellent quality VoIP phone service; Broadview also lets you communicate with hi def video, web and audio conferencing, and toll-free service.

As network speeds increase and technology becomes more refined, the marketplace for VoIP continues to grow and become more relevant. Contact us with any additional questions you might have relating to finding a suitable alternative to the incumbent phone companies.

Product Review: An Overview of Broadview Networks’ “BYOB” Hosted VoIP Solution

Over the last few years I couldn’t help but notice how the proliferation of “BYO-something” has invaded the world of telephony and IT.

First it was Bring Your Own Device, and that wave of people (students at universities, mobile employees and others) forced organizations everywhere to beef up their wireless networks to accommodate the tsunami of users who demanded permission to use their own devices. Then, a few years ago the Gartner Group talked about BYOT, Bring Your Own Technology, which caused IT managers to redefine their role as managers of the network rather than managers of users who are “consumerizing” tech. Now comes another known as BYOB, but it’s not a bottle I’m talking about. It’s Bring Your Own Broadband.

BYOB JokeUsers, whether they’re small business owners or employees, are accustomed to having a broadband connection at home and at the office. Why not use that existing business service for VoIP phone traffic? After all, business service from companies like AT&T, Verizon and other alternative providers routinely offer speeds of 40 Mbps and greater.

So why not use the Internet for VoIP? Strangely, the answer to that question immediately reveals the problem, and the problem is the Internet. It’s a public network with no quality of service (QoS) other than what your router might give you. But once your VoIP packets leave your router, QoS disappears. Your router only affects packets within your local network.

Where to Turn?

Hosted VoIP companies like Broadview Networks recognize that BYOB isn’t the answer.

The company was established in 1996 as a regional telecom operation. Today it’s a national provider of cloud-based telephony and related services. It owns and operates its own redundant backbone fiber optic network and can therefore guarantee quality. Tens of thousands of SMB’s use Broadview, and I think they’re well worth your time to investigate.



They’ve developed a solution known as OfficeSuite that manages QoS from point to point and gives you clear, landline grade telephony your business needs if you expect customers and vendors to take you seriously. Here’s a summary from their FAQ page:

“When OfficeSuite service is delivered via On-Net Broadview access, Broadview will use Quality of Service (QoS) policy statements in the Broadview-provided router/Internet access device, to mark signaling and media packets with IP precedence. This will classify those packets across the Broadview Networks’ IP access network, by priority, available across the access link and the network core.”

If you’d like to learn more, here’s another video from Sanjay Patel, VP of Technology at Broadview. He explains that the company uses MPLS to manage QoS.

Now, after making a case against BYOB, I need to explain that Broadview does also give you the choice of using your existing broadband connection. Yes, you can BYOB with Broadview. When you sign up with them they’ll conduct a site survey to assure you have adequate bandwidth available.

So whether you choose to take the rough ride over the Internet, or the MPLS-managed highway that guarantees voice quality, Broadview offers a pretty complete solution.