It appears a transition that has been building for a long time has reached fruition: Vonage, a pioneer of VoIP services, is no longer number one. This isn't much of a surprise, but it certainly marks an important corporate milestone.
Vonage has been on the critical list since it lost a patent infringement suit to Verizon. This NewsFactor story said that it signed only 57,000 customers during the second quarter, bringing its total to 2.45 million. Comcast, the new leader, added 671,000 customers and now serves more than 3 million people.
That milestone -- coupled with the sudden flame out of SunRocket -- appears to cement the longstanding shift to cable players and traditional telcos' VoIP offerings. These companies simply outdistance the stand-alones in every category, not the least of which is the ability to bundle voice, video and data services.
This is big business. Cable operators, who recently were told by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they must contribute some of their VoIP fees for the bureau's budget, are angling to bypass the public switched telephone network (PSTN) entirely via peering arrangements. The industry also is set to go after businesses and wring even more money out of consumer wallets and small business budgets with a growing array of emerging standards. What is crystal clear is that this is an industry with the background and infrastructure to do more than standalone VoIP operations.
There is a bit of melancholy in this, though. VoIP, just a few short years ago, looked like a grass roots movement that would operate in a less corporate way than the traditional phone industry. As Robert Poe points out in this commentary at VoIP News, that was fated not to be. Ask people which corporate entity they would least like to see wrest supremacy from the legacy phone industry, many would say the cable industry. Says Poe:
[Cable operators'] fondest dream was not to overturn the status quo, but rather to become its new owners. Their strategy was to essentially replicate traditional telephone service features and prices, undercutting the incumbents just enough to gain market share, but no more.
Poe seems saddened that there appears to be no more than a marginal place on the corporate landscape for companies without big infrastructure and big backing. While independent companies remain, the reality is that VoIP has been transformed or, in many ways, restored to an earlier era. Said Poe:
"Cable companies' emergence as the largest and fastest-growing VoIP providers is the final proof that the revolution is dead."