Tampa company's Internet phone service rings clear

Lorenzo Hart, left, a customer service representative with Telovations, and network engineer manager Chet Curry work in the network operations center in Tampa. The expanding company has opened an office in Jacksonville.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Lorenzo Hart, left, a customer service representative with Telovations, and network engineer manager Chet Curry work in the network operations center in Tampa. The expanding company has opened an office in Jacksonville.

Two years ago, a small Tampa company splashed into the communications scene, aspiring to spar with giants such as Verizon and AT&T.

Today, Telovations, which targets small and medium-sized businesses with its phone, Internet and various types of Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, services, has grown from six employees to 48. It has pocketed more than 200 clients, and recently struck a partnership with Clearwater-based computer distribution giant Tech Data Corp. to take its business nationwide. This month, the company opened an office in Jacksonville and began a new round of hiring.

What sets the company apart is that it has its own private network for the bundled services. It hosts a client's communication hub, integrates its computer, fax, video conferencing and phone lines, and manages all the services while sending a single bill.

"We compete against phone companies and some emerging players like Vonage, but we have no direct competition," said Mark Swanson, chairman and chief technology officer.

The company has raised enough interest to rake in $6.5-million in venture capital funding. Telovations' quick climb was triggered by the popularity of using voice-over-Internet options.

In 2005, the VoIP industry tagged $4.6-billion in business revenue. Last year, that number reached $8.4-billion, according to Atlantic-ACM, a telecommunications industry research firm. By 2011, Atlantic-ACM projects, revenue will rise to $14.2-billion.

Where Telovations scores over competitors is its private network, experts say. One of the biggest concerns with VoIP is the quality of service. Some VoIP providers use the public Internet, where its services compete with e-mail and Web site downloads, degrading call quality. The service is more at peril if it's provided over a broadband connection. If the Internet goes down, it takes down the phone line with it.

Telovations says its focus has been to offer the best quality service by building on a reliable network.

"We are built on a Cisco-powered network, and we want to provide our customers with the comfort that this is the best product available," said Rick Schonbrun, president and CEO.

What is VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol allows digital phone service over the Internet. The technology converts analog voice signals into digital data and supports two-way transmission of conversations using Internet protocol in real time. It uses both the public Internet as well as private networks.


Pros and cons

The Pros

Low cost. A PC-to-phone connection over a broadband connection is much cheaper than regular phone service. You don't pay extra for features such as voice mail, caller ID and three-way calling.

Flexibility. Your phone service travels with you and you can make and receive phone calls wherever there is a broadband connection by signing in to your VoIP account and plugging in your Internet phone.

The cons

Lost service. Your phone goes out with a blackout.

Need for good connection. A bad Internet connection can result in a bad phone connection.

Untraceable 911 calls. Traditional phones are equipped to trace your location when you make emergency calls, but there is currently no way to determine where a VoIP call is coming from.

Tampa company's Internet phone service rings clear 05/25/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 2, 2008 4:22pm]

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