It sounds like a simple, lucrative business model: MSPs should sell IP phone handsets and then profit from recurring back-end revenues from hosted VoIP, unified communications and more. The challenge: Where can managed services providers find partners for the back-end hosted services? I'm sure there are numerous answers to that question. But here are three potential options that come to mind -- from such companies as Telcentris, Intermedia and Fonality.

Telcentris today launched a white-label VoIP platform that is "designed to provide interconnects, ILECs, CLECs, ITSPs, and entrepreneurs a plug-and-play environment that enables them to set up a VoIP company in a matter of weeks with little upfront investment." Alas, Telcentris didn't mention managed services providers in that target audience list. But it sure sounds like MSPs are a potential audience for the Telcentris white label channel partner program.

White Label partners can offer the following services to end-customers, according to Telcentris:

  • SIP trunking
  • Hosted IP-PBX
  • Carrier services
  • Callback services
  • Residential landline replacement services

Other Options

Meanwhile, Intermedia in early 2011 is set to launch a hosted unified communications partner program, MSPmentor has heard. Intermedia already has a loyal following in the hosted Exchange market. Longer term, it seems clear that Intermedia is looking to compete with Microsoft Lync (the successor to Microsoft Office Communications Server).

Intermedia previewed the hosted UC strategy during its mid-2010 partner summit. But some partners initially balked because the Intermedia platform didn't support familiar front-ends and back-ends like Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange. Intermedia went back to the drawing board, adjusted its technology strategy, and is now set to support those Microsoft options. TalkinCloud, MSPmentor's sister site, expects to have complete details about Intermedia's hosted and cloud strategy within the next few days.

Also of note: Fonality in the past year has repositioned from an open source IP PBX provider to a hosted PBX and cloud communications provider. The company has a partner program -- though we haven't heard from many Fonality partners since the company began emphasizing a cloud strategy earlier this year.

Sense of Urgency

As cloud computing continues to gain momentum, some VARs and MSPs are looking to use all types of endpoints -- PCs, laptops, printers and IP phones -- to drop multiple anchors into small business environments. Grab onto those endpoints, the advocates believe, and you'll never lose hold of your SMB customer base. At the same time, MSP-centric software companies like Tigerpaw Software are connecting the dots between traditional IP networks and telecom networks.

Still, selling IP phones and hosted VoIP services can sound complicated. We'll be curious to see how many MSPs succeed in the VoIP market.

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