VOIP GAINING ITS OWN VOICE
As the quality of Internet telephone services continues to
improve, the trend and competition among providers offers agencies
and agents a growing number of options to maximize efficiencies and
Eric Maryanov, president and founder of Los Angeles-based All-
Travel, says his agency uses VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol
service for some of its remote, home-based agents.
“It allows us to keep a central phone number for consumers for our
offices and transfer calls to remote home-based agents,” he said.
“We can transfer quickly, without any delays or switches and the
customer has no clue they’re being transferred. I believe in bricks
and mortar, but it also gives us a good tool and flexibility.”
A variety of companies offer the service with a broad range of
calling plans and options, some offering savings of up to 40
percent off the monthly costs of traditional land-line
Among providers are Sunrocket.com, Packet8.net, Vonage.com,
Skype.com, Dialpad.com, Broad
vox.com, Callvantage.com, Nuvio.com and Verizon.com. And new
providers continue to enter the market, including One IP Voice
(www.oneipvoice.com), a subsidiary of Farmstead Telephone
Serving the small- to medium-business market, the firm officially
rolled out national service in January, using 9,000 independent
business distribution partners for its private-IP-network-based
service. The service can be managed down to the desktop and offers
a variety of customized calling plans, including unlimited local
and long-distance plans for heavy users.
Nolan Burris, founder of Visionistics, told attendees at a recent
TRAMS conference in Las Vegas that providers have continued to
improve and expand their services. Costs are competitive, with most
services such as call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, star
codes, voice mail integrated with e-mail and three-way calling
included in the monthly billing price.
Burris noted home office or residential service plans can start as
low as $14.99 a month, ranging up to $24.99 a month with unlimited
While the quality is continuing to improve significantly, Burris
noted that because VoIP compresses and transmits a large amount of
data, the process can take a bit longer than traditional land-line
VoIP quality also is only as good as the Internet connection and
its quality of service, and some voice distortion can be found with
low-end or free systems.
Experts say it pays to thoroughly research the growing field of
providers to ensure the best quality and content. This is important
as new VoIP providers continue to enter the field, including
software firms such as Lycos, Yahoo and AOL now competing with
companies like Vonage, which provides hardware to connect land-line
phones to broadband Internet.
SABRE MOVE WATCHED CLOSELY
Sabre Travel Network’s announcement last month that it would
launch an optional program Aug. 1 to provide agents guaranteed
access to full content and protection from service fees that may be
levied by carriers in the program has generated widespread
speculation that it could signal the first of a variety of programs
in the GDS industry that could effectively lower agent
While Sabre said its Efficient Access Solution is designed to
protect against growing fragmentation of travel distribution, the
program does include pricing changes. Sabre executives have not
disclosed details of program pricing but industry observers have
said it could be as much as 80 cents per segment.
Sabre said carriers in the program will receive a discounted
booking fee for reservations made by agencies enrolled in the
program and, in turn, will guarantee travel agencies in the program
key benefits and protections. Officials said the program provides
for continuing agency incentives but noted agencies will agree to
certain financial terms.
Carriers in the program with a minimum five-year commitment
include Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, US
Airways, Northwest Airlines and AirTran Airways.
“Sabre worked hard to develop a multilateral approach that
balances the needs of all industry players,” said Chris Kroeger,
Sabre Travel Network senior vice president, North America. “Our
goal has always been to provide agents a one-stop shop for full
travel content while accommodating the cost pressures experienced
by airlines in today’s market. Full content is just the foundation,
however. What we are announcing today is a clear pathway to new
end-to-end suites tailored specifically to the needs of both the
corporate and leisure travel community.”
So far, there has been no public word by airlines that they are
seeking service fees, but Sabre’s move comes as traditional GDS
face growing economic pressure from new distribution entrants and
airline contract renegotiations.
While Galileo acknowledged the industry pressure, it criticized
the move by Sabre, noting that agencies that use its platform will
continue to have full access to airline content. Still, it noted
that it also is weighing alternatives that would ensure continued
access to full content without airline service fees.
Experts said how Sabre’s move ultimately affects agencies will
play out over the next several months, although some agencies
already are moving toward the program.
“The assurance of full content for the long term is in the best
interests of our customers, and doing so through an economic
contribution without implementing additional systems throughout our
organization is certainly preferable,” said Bob Chaiken, chief
operating officer of Wisconsin-based Adelman Travel Group.
“Fragmentation and service fees from the airlines would
significantly increase costs and impair our ability to provide the
high level of service our customers expect.”