The growth of the VoIP market and success stories of brands like Skype and Viber attracts the attention of many entrepreneurs, especially those, who are active users of internet telephony. However, when startups start digging deeper, to understand what’s needed to become a VoIP service provider, they are easily lost in the bunch of information that can be found on the Internet. So what do you really need to become an ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) and launch your own VoIP services?
First, you should have a general understanding about telephony. The best understanding comes from work experience, but if you don’t have that, you may read books about VoIP technology, use online resources, such as voip-info.org, or visit specialized blogs like this one. If technology is not your strong side, you should consider finding a partner with technical knowhow. Even though there are one-man companies in the VoIP world, the most successful ones are usually established by two or more partners, as they can take on responsibilities matching their strengths.
Choosing a VoIP Service
There are many services that are based on VoIP technology: callback, calling cards, call shops, residential VoIP, mobile VoIP, SIP trunking, IP PBX, unified communications, wholesale transit, VoIP-PSTN and grey termination. Which is the right one for your business case? The answer lies in your target market, the behavior of your potential clients, and the competition. You need to make a client and competition analysis, and evaluate the general trends in your market.
Deciding on a Business Model
There are two options – being a reseller or a service provider. Even though everyone is dreaming about the highest level, the truth is that it’s better to start small and grow step by step. Being a reseller allows you to minimize your investment and risk. You’ll be able to provide VoIP services based on commissions (or by applying your own margin). Once you’ve built your user base and your business grows, you may consider investing in VoIP infrastructure and become a VoIP provider.
If you decide to become a VoIP provider, you’ll need to acquire your own infrastructure. The key platform is a softswitch (short for a software switch) which connects calls between clients and providers. For retail VoIP you’ll need a class 5 switch and for wholesale VoIP a class 4 switch. Finally, if you are unsure, which path to choose, you may select a class 4 & 5 softswitch, which is an all-in-one solution.
Finding Partners and Suppliers
To run a VoIP business, you’ll need to select multiple suppliers that can provide different resources. The two key resources are voice traffic (termination) and DID numbers (Voxbone is a renowned supplier of both). In addition, you may need VoIP softphones and applications (if you target the residential market), virtual PBX (if you provide SIP trunking and hosted VoIP services) and additional equipment, such as phones, ATAs or gateways.
Launching Your Service
Finally, once you’ve completed the infrastructure deployment and signed contracts with suppliers, it’s time to launch your service. The best path is to begin with a close group of clients (also called “beta clients”), who are willing to share their feedback. Once you feel confident about the quality of your services, it is time to begin your active sales and marketing campaign to attract more clients. Besides daily operations, you’ll need to dedicate time to review and adjust your business plan in order to make the best decisions for your VoIP business growth.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about stages of starting your own VoIP business, there’s a book about it. However, it’s at the stage of a manuscript and we need your support to make it a reality. Be a part of this book by supporting this project on Kickstarter! More information here: http://www.bitly.com/VoIP-Book