Click here to read Part 1 of the interview.
Which vendors have you been working with?
All our gateways are from Cisco. The call switching platform is from Tekelec. For the end user devices we use Cisco phones.
What made you choose Tekelec and Cisco?
With most other hosted solutions you have a call switching platform and then there is the voice firewall to be sourced from SBC vendors. With Tekelec both the voice firewalls and the call switching platform are made by the same company. That reduces the finger pointing when there are technical issues. And we essentially like the feature set that was available from Tekelec and the price point was right. (iLocus note: The products that are mentioned here are now owned by GENBAND).
Cisco is more of an industry standard as far as voice gateways go. We have been using them for a long time for voice and data, although most of our data network today is being migrated to Juniper. But from the voice side Cisco is still there. As far as Cisco phones are concerned, we like them the most but they also are the most expensive. We are therefore actively looking for small comparative products.
What particular measures have you taken to mitigate security risk of VoIP?
We basically enforce a concept of users having to change passwords every three months and we donâ€™t allow the use of weak passwords so the password length that is being enforced is six digits. While I feel this is not good enough, unfortunately there is not much we can do as a provider. But we are working with the vendors to see how that can be further addressed.
We also tied the user accounts to the mac-address of the end point so once end point has been registered with a user name and password another end point using the same user name and password will not be able to register with the system. However it doesnâ€™t prevent people from accessing things like the web portal with the username and password. Now we can restrict access to the portal to users on our network only but the whole value proposition of VoIP is to keep the service going when user is traveling.
How do you sum up the regulation on VoIP in Singapore?
I think from a regulatory standpoint there is really no issue. We are really allowed to do anything that we wish to do in Singapore. Traditionally for anybody offering any form of prepaid VoIP service there was a requirement to put a 100,000 dollar security bond with the government. This has since been lifted. As long as your company has a paid up capital of around 100,000 dollars you are allowed to do this. The only restriction which is a bit unique to Singapore is fixed line services in Singapore begin with a digit 6. All mobile based numbers start either with a digit 9 or a digit 8 and the government initially issued a regulation saying all VoIP calls delivered out of Singapore should begin with a digit 3 which was then issued to VoIP operators so we today we issue a combination of digit starting with 6 and 3 depending on where the customer is starting up from. This is basically for the regulator to keep track of how the number is being used. That would be probably the only marginal issue.
Do you pay any termination fee to the local incumbents?
As a VoIP operator when we connect to the incumbent operators for termination of local calls we pay the same rate as any enterprise would so we have no room for any margins on local call termination.
Also, there seems to be the number portability issue in Singapore?
Yes, the lack of number portability is a really big issue for us because when you go to the enterprise market - especially the more established companies - the number is very important to them. If they subscribe to new VoIP services, they are unable to retain their phone numbers. Number portability is extremely important in all markets where VoIP is to succeed.
What do you see the prospects of VoIP in Asia Pacific in the coming years?
Most of the countries in Asia Pacific are still very tightly regulated. Only Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and now Thailand are sort of liberalizing the markets. Apart from Singapore and Hong Kong, the other countries that I mentioned actually require you to have a license to offer VoIP service. In other Asiapac countries like Burma, Combodia, Vietnam, China, VoIP type services are very tightly regulated.
Once these countries start issuing licenses or adopt more deregulation we will see another phase of VoIP deployments in the region. And I guess IDD will again be the main focus of new VoIP service providers because in Asia Pacific we have a lot of IDD traffic with the region.
Do you have any competition coming from Singtel in the area of hosted centrex?
In the business segment we compete with the incumbent operator Singtel and their offering called iPhoneNet which is a hosted centrex model based on the Broadsoft platform. We view them as a strong competitor. Apart from that Starhub has a service which is mainly for the residential segement. They donâ€™t really have an enterprise Centrex offering. Most of the other operators are not offering PABX replacement services. They are doing supplementation for IDD services using much smaller systems like a Cisco call manager or an Asterisk PABX or some open source SIP solution. Then there are small players like a company called Skypehole, another one is Super Internet and some other as well but we have been fortunate enough to see we are dominating this segment of Singapore.
What is your unique selling point selling to the enterprise segment?
Our USP essentially is that apart from the incumbent operator we are the only operator to own infrastructure. When we engage the customer we engage them on a total solution including voice and data.
On the residential side who do you see succeeding with VoIP services in Singapore?
Singtel doesnâ€™t seem to be too keen on the residential segment. Starhub is probably more active in the residential segment they have a product called Digital Voice. Starhub is a cable TV operator and they basically have cable going to every home in Singapore.
How many business customers do you have at present?
We have about 180 customers on the enterprise voice and 300 on the data side.
How much VoIP traffic are you handling per month?
In total including our wholesale services I would say 10 to 12 million minutes a month.
What are your targets for the year end?
We have a growth target of 5000 new extensions by end 2007. Our service offering is also currently available in Malaysia. We are looking to expand into Thailand, potentially Indonesia and there are some exploratory ideas now to look at expanding the service into Europe. We are in the process of establishing a POP in UK to do this.