The Advantage of Bundling

This past weekend, I talked about the disadvantages that some VoIP services could face if other services partnered with the carriers and offered a co-branded/co-bundled offering.

It appears the disadvantages could potentially be much worse than I laid out in my post…

Folks on the Vonage VoIP forums are indicating that at least one carrier (in Qatar) has shut-down the ability for all VoIP service providers to run on their network.

Likely you’re thinking what I first thought…this couldn’t happen in the U.S. where carriers are legally obligated to allow all IP traffic to pass through their pipes! But, a recent article in IEEE Spectrum that discusses the technology used to identify and block VoIP packets also addresses the issue of U.S. carriers:

“In the United States and many other countries, a phone company’s common carrier status prevents it from blocking potentially competitive services.

‘But there’s nothing that keeps a carrier in the United States from introducing jitter, so the quality of the conversation isn’t good,’ Thomas says. ‘So the user will either pay for the carrier’s voice-over-Internet application, which brings revenue to the carrier, or pay the carrier for a premium service that allows Skype use to continue. You can deteriorate the service, introduce latency [audible delays in hearing the other end of the line], and also offer a premium to improve it.’

U.S. broadband-cable companies are considered information services, which by law gives them the right to block VoIP calls. Comcast Corp., in Philadelphia, the country’s largest cable company, is already a Narus customer; Thomas declined to say whether Comcast uses the VoIP-blocking capabilities.

In August, a Federal Communications Commission ruling gave phone companies the same latitude for DSL. “

Another reason why a partnership with a carrier may be critically important to the success of a VoIP service in the U.S.

Tellme Update

Just to clarify for everyone who has asked, Tellme was not purchased by Microsoft last week.

On Monday, TechCrunch writer Michael Arrington published a blog post titled, “Microsoft Has Acquired Tellme,” laying out the details of a Microsoft purchase of the company I recently started working for. After getting picked up by Om Malik on his blog, the rumors started flying, and even the Tellme staff was wondering what was going on.

But, a few minutes later, both TechCrunch and Om revised their “information,” clarifying that “Microsoft Has (Not) Acquired Tellme.” The next day, the headline was again revised, this time as “Tellme For Sale.”

Anyone who has followed the Tellme saga the past eight years knows that the company has some amazing people and products and has successfully reinvented itself multiple times (from consumer-focused products to carrier-class directory assistance to Enterprise business solutions and now coming full circle back to consumer-based); as is common with successful startup companies, rumors of forthcoming liquidity events are quite common. And Tellme is not immune to the rumors.

o, to set the record straight…while Tellme’s strong revenue and growth could likely allow it a successful IPO, and it’s tremendous people and products certainly make it attractive to a number of large players in the telco and Internet spaces, as of this writing, Tellme is still privately owned. And more importantly, it’s still fully focused on building some of the best consumer and business-class voice-based applications on the planet.