To Dream the Impossible Dream: Voxbone’s Journey Towards Global Communications

Itay Rosenfeld
Apr 30, 2019 · 6 min read

Voxbone has been working for 15 years to do what no one has ever managed — deliver truly global business communications to our customers.

Streamlined global communications has long been a pipe dream for businesses

No one has ever managed to create a global communications network. Telcos are still national or, at best, regional. Unified Communications players have limited and often illegal coverage. Even the most powerful global tech companies — the Googles, Amazons and Microsofts that seem to be able to surmount any tech challenge with their endless resources and talent — aren’t making progress on this front.

Why? Because communications is a very complex, regulated and fragmented space and — if you truly want things to work over the long run — there is no shortcut. (For a quick recap on how the market works, take a look at my previous article on Cloud Comms).

Below is a short summary on the factors that need to align for global communications to flourish.


Regulation

Communications are heavily regulated. Each country establishes its own processes and requirements that operators need to follow in order to provide services to the public. This varies drastically from country to country and, at the top end, includes the need to apply for a license only obtainable after complying with requirements around local presence, national ownership, disclosure of services, company performance, payment of fees… you get the picture.

It can take years of preparation and conversations with the national regulator to obtain a license and they’re normally service-specific. So you potentially need to go through the process multiple times in order to provide the full-stack service that customers expect and need. It’s also a moving target, with regulators adapting their requirements to a changing reality.

This is arguably the key reason why no player has been able to achieve global coverage: investment alone is not enough, expertise and time are also required! And the temptation to take shortcuts is strong…

No one has ever managed to create a global communications network. Why? Because communications is a very complex, regulated and fragmented space and — if you truly want things to work over the long run — there is no shortcut.


Infrastructure

Once you’ve jumped over the regulatory hurdles, the mission is to deliver a real-time media service with spotless quality and reliability. This may sound simple, but if you’ve ever used a random VoIP service, you know most times the quality is far from what we are used to getting over the plain old telephone system. At Voxbone, we believe the key to quality and reliability on a global base is to own the infrastructure.

True, it has become somewhat possible to run real-time media services over the internet using virtual machines. However, doing so leaves a lot to luck as your traffic gets mixed up with massive amounts of data from non-real-time applications with little differentiation or control over failover mechanisms.

It also costs an arm and a leg and only works in highly connected areas. For these reasons we have chosen to run our own data centers and connections and developed our own media and signaling software, customized around our service and built to scale at a very low cost.


Uniform and flexible access

Customers expect the same levels of service, speed, and flexibility from their communications platform that they get in any other area. This is, to a major extent, the reason behind the phenomenal growth we’ve seen in the last few years of UCaaS, CPaaS and CCaaS platforms.

The traditional telco way of servicing customers with a fragmented offering, rigid pricing structures, long lead times and endless paperwork has become obsolete.

Customers now look for a single platform offering:

  • API and web portal access, giving them the highest level of flexibility in the way they integrate and automate voice and messaging services into their own comms structure
  • The ability to manage their comms needs in real-time (ordering new numbers, adjusting capacity, extending coverage to additional countries, etc.)
  • Elastic services that let their costs scale with their usage, plus full transparency into what they’re paying for and how costs have been calculated
  • A single contract that lets them set up services and products as they need them in the most agile way possible

The traditional telco way of servicing customers with a fragmented offering, rigid pricing structures, long lead times and endless paperwork has become obsolete.


The Voxbone journey: after many years of hard work we are close to achieving the impossible

At Voxbone today we cover 65 countries (69 by the end of 2019) representing approximately 93% of global GDP. We are proud to say that, after many years of work, we can offer compliant, global coverage to all our customers.

Making this viable has taken us nearly 15 years and has not been easy.

At first we had to obtain the blessing of national telecom regulators in multiple countries. Picture the conversations when we pitch the idea of offering a fixed and mobile service to local authorities, explaining that we will not need physical infrastructure, local employees, etc. and that the service will mostly be used by platforms abroad.

Then we had to create a lightweight model to run local interconnections that shorten the paths to and from every country we cover. Today we have c. 200 interconnections in the 65 countries we cover in a “1-to-3 hop model”. A 2-hop model is simple to grasp, it means that between our customer (e.g. a business) and the person they call (e.g. their customer anywhere in the world), there’s us (Voxbone) plus a maximum of 1 local carrier (e.g. AT&T). Achieving a 2-hop model requires interconnections with all major carriers in any given country, something we keep pushing for. In some cases we are not fully there yet so there’s 1 more in-country handover, resulting in 3 hops.

The interesting part is the 1-hop situation. As we’ve grown, we’ve seen gradually more calls that start and end in our network. Right now calls these amount to c.10% of our total volume: for them, we can ensure not only optimal quality but also much lower pricing.

And last but not least, our platform and customer service are improving continuously and provide the flexibility, speed, and ease of use to let our customers forget about their communications and focus on their business knowing that their comms are working, optimized and stable — and will not interrupt or decelerate their growth.

We are proud to say that, after many years of work, we can offer compliant, global coverage to all our customers


The new face of Voxbone

Our latest launch, Voxbone’s enterprise-grade platform, is the best example of our journey towards worry-free comms for all types of businesses. It lets businesses set up their communications infrastructure in a matter of minutes, then scale across the globe instantly, opening new markets in just a few clicks and virtualizing existing infrastructure to streamline operations.

We’ve built our platform from the ground up to be application agnostic. In practice, this means you can integrate our voice and messaging services into any existing communications app you might be using, or build new services directly on top of our global network. Because your underlying communications are handled by Voxbone, they’re fully compliant with local regulations in every market, with discounts that grow alongside your usage.

Of course, there’s still a long way to go. Our journey towards enabling worry-free comms for businesses anywhere in the world is far from done. But we continue working hard to expand coverage and add new functionality for our ever-growing customer base.

Itay Rosenfeld

Written by

CEO @voxbone. Making communications strangely simple

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