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.