Business Long Distance: Death by 1,000,000 PBX’s

Skype announces launch of a beta version of Skype for SIP, connecting IP-PBX’s to the Skype cloud.

Dan York, while a keen supporter of Skype, has been campaigning for a Skype to SIP interconnect on his Disruptive Telephony blog. In a post last fall, “Skype and SIP – the two sides of the issue raised by Michael Robertson”, he says:

We need to build the interconnect.

Yeah, there are a TON of issues out there that we still need to address to build that interconnect. There’s a whole host of security issues… there are billing issues… there are trust issues… there are network plumbing issues. Yes, there are all those issues. But if we are to succeed in ultimately bringing about the rich communication experience we want, we need to make this happen.

And for that, Skype’s walls need to come down…. at least a bit.

What we need is that Interconnect from Skype’s cloud out to the emerging IP infrastructure. Think about it… Skype right now has a two-way interconnect between Skype’s cloud and the cloud we know as the PSTN. It’s called “SkypeOut” and “SkypeIn” (or whatever marketing names they are being called now). If you dial my SkypeIn number, you can reach me on Skype wherever I am. From my Skype client, I can call anyone on the PSTN. The two-way interconnect is already there.

This morning Skype announced the launch of a beta version of Skype for SIP as a major initiative for further penetration into the business market. Basically Skype for SIP allows SIP PBX owners to access the Skype cloud as additional inbound lines , via Skype Online numbers, and outbound extensions to their existing PBX, via SkypeOut. From the press release:

Key Features

The beta version of Skype For SIP will enable business users to:

  • Receive and manage inbound calls from Skype users worldwide on SIP-enabled PBX systems; connecting the company Web site to the PBX system via click-to-call
  • Place calls with Skype to landlines and mobile phones worldwide from any connected SIP-enabled PBX; reducing costs with Skype’s low-cost global rates
  • Purchase Skype’s online numbers, to receive calls to the corporate PBX from landlines or mobile phones
  • Manage Skype calls using their existing hardware and system applications such as call routing, conferencing, phone menus and voicemail; no additional downloads or training are required.

In an interview with Skype Senior Product Manager Chris Moore, I learned:

  • Skype’s’ goal will be to have a totally user friendly interface such that Skype for SIP is a seamless service
  • Administration will be done through an extended Skype Business Control Panel interface which, amongst other activities will establish Skype for SIP account mapping, manage online numbers and perform appropriate configuration for the various PBX’s.
  • Skype will be looking to work with the various SIP PBX and Unified Communications vendors, such as Cisco, Avaya, Nortel and Siemens. When I asked about Microsoft Response Point, which had been demonstrated to me the previous day, Chris confirmed, yes, they were another prospective vendor to be approached.
  • during the beta, Skype will be used on a pay-as-you-go basis; pricing for the service once it is launched has yet to be determined
  • Skype will be including security issues as one major consideration (I expect Dan York to have more to say on this issue)
  • The service will be configured to take advantage of Skype’s royalty free SILK codec; if both endpoints of a call support SILK, then the SILK support will carry across the Skype for SIP interface.

This has to be a landmark announcement for the IP-based communications space. It effectively allows businesses to integrate the Skype cloud into existing infrastructure to handle all long distance and international calling. Some other initial observations:

  • Does Skype for SIP impact the space currently served by Vosky’s PBX services?  It definitely leaves open for Vosky the analog PBX market; one question will be how does Vosky figure out a way to work Skype for SIP into their business activities and offerings during the six- to twelve-month beta?
  • It’s currently a beta; applicants for beta participation can apply at www.skypeforsip.com. From the press release: “Applicants will need to be businesses, have an installed SIP based IP-PBX system, as well as a level of technical competency to configure their own SIP-enabled PBX. The initial beta is available to a limited number of participants.”
  • Skype also expects to determine an appropriate distribution channel. While ease-of-use is a key goal, there will still be small business owners who will want third party expertise to manage their communications activities. So expect Skype to look to a VAR or Systems Integrator channel to support implementation.
  • Skype for SIP broadens Skype’s penetration into the small-to-medium business market. Where Skype for Asterisk introduces a Skype feature-rich Asterisk channel to Asterisk PBX’s, Skype for SIP simply brings Skype cloud connectivity to a major subset of existing small business PBX installations.
  • Along another feature axis we see hosted services vs on-premise implementations. Will widely geographically distributed small businesses favor a hosted service, such as OnState’s Virtual PBX, or one of these on-premise PBX offerings.

One sure call: the market for business long distance, especially international calling, is about to be radically disrupted as these services come into play. It brings about new business opportunities and, most significantly, makes any business a global business, if the will is there. With probably over one million IP PBX’s out there (Skype’s press release says over 438,000 were sold in 2008 along), Skype for SIP brings the slow but sure death of legacy international calling, one PBX at a time.

And, of course, Dan York brings his deep perspective, not only on how Skype for SIP works, but also on the security and codec issues surronding Skype for SIP: Skype tears down more walls with “Skype For SIP”.

About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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