Friday, 6 July 2007

Where do you start?

I needed some hosting, a domain name, a paypal account and access to a service to fulfil the call requests. I got the following set up in a few hours...

Domain: (TELCO with a '3' replacing the 'E') - £25 per year

Hosting: - £125 per year with no arbitrary bandwidth restrictions

PayPal: (feel free to send me money) - about 23p for a £10 customer account topup transaction

Fulfilment: (BT's Web21C SDK) - about 20p per call

I wanted to promote feelings of simplicity and friendliness so I chose modeling clay to create my logo and some claymation elements for the site.

Something to Sell

To make a sale I needed a product and so I chose to start with voice calls.

I can initiate a call between two phones anywhere in the world using the BT Web21C SDK at a cost to me of around 20p where the call can last for up to 2 hours. While this may not be cost effective for my customers making a quick local call to say they are on our way home, it does offer some real value for those making long overseas calls particularly if they want to involve mobile phones at one or both ends.

To make a profit though I need to add a margin that will cover other costs such as hosting, transaction fees etc... So a charge of 30p per call can still offer value over a two hour call of around 0.25p per minute to anywhere in the world.


What is a Telco?


'Telco' according to Wikipedia is a generic term for a telephone company.

I guess that means someone who sells, or gives away telephone calls.

Used to be that a Telco was a government agency, and the agency owned a bunch of copper in the ground, some buildings with switches and operators in (the exchange), and some billing infrastructure - probably this used to be people with abacuses. Hell, the agency even owned the telephone in your house. They owned the lot of it, from end to end. You got a phone from the government agency, or you didn't get one.

Things have changed a bit.

We've had decentralization. We have monopoly commissions. We've got a stack load of regulation. We have the internet. I don't think Alexander Graham Bell would recognise the telco of today. Voice data is now broken down into packets, and switched. Who knows if even one word goes over the same route?

So I think that the companies who were the Telco of yesteryear has morphed. Now they are a carrier. They shunt bits. Sometimes these bits are voice. Sometimes they are data.

Clever Telcos have extended their businesses. They are often now ISPs. They include among their customers other ISPs. They sell hosting. They sell IVRs. The one thing they seem to have in common is a whole bunch of sunk cost in network, and infrastructure. Sadly the end user experience hasn't changed very much. After all, if you pick up the phone and dial, you get through. What's different?

Well, we think that you don't need to own any network, or infrastructure in order to be a Telco. We think that anyone can be a Telco, and sell telephone calls, and advanced calling services.

This blog is going to show how you can build a telco with minimal upfront cost, on a transactional basis, and, hopefully, turn a profit!!

We're not going to tell you how to compete with AT&T, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Google, Skype, or any other Telco. How you do that will be up to you. You'll need to decide exactly what your positioning is.

All you'll need to get started is a $1000 PC (or mac!), a development environment, and some tools that we'll show you over the course of time. At some point you might need a web server. We're going to base a lot of the telecom integration on BT's Web21C SDK, which exposes their global network to developers with a very interesting pricing model.

So stay tuned, and you might find out what we mean by 'Leg and Mux'. The difference between call origination, interconnect and termination fees. What the difference between an IVR and an ACD is. The problems with voip. And anything else which springs to mind! I look forward to watching this conversation develop.