D&H Distributing plans to sign deals to sell Voice over IP (VoIP) services from EarthLink and Vonage, the first two agreements in the telephone service space for the Harrisburg, Pa.-based distributor.
D&H talked with multiple VoIP companies and EarthLink and Vonage are the first two that had the right products and the right programs ready to tackle the SMB space, said Dan Schwab, vice president of marketing at D&H.
"It's been an expensive technology until now. It hasn't been marketed effectively. It's a risk for [SMB customers]. If your phone goes down, you're out of business. If your PC goes down, you can still take orders over the phone," Schwab said at D&H's annual Digital Convergence show in Camp Hill, Pa. "This is our first step. We're at a point where our vendors will continue to introduce products that make sense for this market. We're starting to hear more requests [for VoIP solutions] but it's not a groundswell yet. Resellers are not saying 'we need a voice solution,'" he said.
D&H will look to add more products and vendors around the solutions, Schwab said.
Other solution providers were wary that VoIP could replicate problems they had trying to sell cell phones. "The problem is you're the point of contact. You made $4 and inherit all the trouble because they're going to call you," said Ken Bosley, president of World Premiere Home Theater, Mechanisburg, Pa.
Schwab admits that it will be a slow ramp up for the services through D&H's customers, most of which have never tried to sell voice services. But he -- and the vendors -- will be patient, he said.
"I don't see it as an overnight landslide of end users migrating, but our focus today is to educate our resellers on voice, about products from Linksys and D-Link to the service providers, the carriers. It's important to get the reseller hooked up with the right carrier to get a right solution," Schwab said. "This is a multi-year sales cycle. They won't be selling to thousands of resellers within 12 months. The goal is to sell to hundreds resellers who will include VoIP in all their rollouts."
The EarthLink service will be available with Linksys hardware, while Vonage can be sold with Linksys and D-Link equipment.
The EarthLink solution includes the Linksys WRTP54G-ER trueVoice wireless-G router with two phone ports and a 4-port 10/100 Mbps switch and the SPA2002ER telephone adapter with two FXS ports.
D-Link's DVG-1402S broadband phone service VoIP router works with the Vonage service. Complementary phones, adapters and other accessories are available from manufacturers including Creative Labs, US Robotics, NetGear, Actiontec, Zoom and 8x8.
Solution providers will receive money for activation fees generated by customers as well as hardware and other services, Schwab said.
In the SMB space, the VoIP solutions are ideal for customers that make long-distance or international calls, Schwab said.
"The cost savings is not there if their business is local, but there are other benefits. They can get their voice mail through their e-mail and they can listen to messages in any order they want to," he said.