Success at the Prepaid Press Expo

August 25, 2008

Last week’s Prepaid Press Expo in Las Vegas was a huge success for NetworkIP, our customers, & the prepaid card industry as a whole. The Expo brought seasoned veterans along with a good number of new companies entering the prepaid market.

In an effort to design the best conference possible The Prepaid Press partnered with the Pelorus Group & as a result the show offered a great array of conference tracks to include a look at the Prepaid Long Distance market as a whole (day 1), Prepaid Wireless (day 2), & Prepaid Alternative Payments (day 3).

On day 1 our very own CEO, Pete Pattullo, presented on the topic of “Building a Better Mousetrap” which focused on the technology of prepaid. Pete’s presentation discussed how we at NetworkIP have approached building a solution to stand the test of time received outstanding feedback from the audience. As Pete suggested, it takes a lot more than a VoIP box to develop a truly remarkable platform. It requires a combination of passion to build reliability, requires managing quality connections (our own iQT solution), ensuring competitive pricing, having the right information to make decisions, the evolution of the platform (we’ve been at it for 10 years & recently released our 8th major software revision – ICS8), innovation & the never-ending pursuit of excellence, & having talented experienced people with the right skills. These are the components that have made our solution the best in class!

Following our very own Leadership Summit Wednesday morning I caught a number of good conference sessions on Prepaid Wireless later in the day. Randall Walrond, VP of Product Management at IVR Technologies, discussed how the prepaid market can leverage the new technology of today’s mobile smart phones. He & I agree on a number of points on what these new devices & faster networks open up to the industry.

I also heard a number of compelling arguments suggesting that the average prepaid consumer isn’t ready for the new smart phones, the applications that run on these smart phones, & new technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC). Oscar Munoz, President of Uni-Mas Corporation, provided compelling arguments that the average prepaid consumer can’t afford today’s smart phones & that technologies such as NFC are just to far out to invest in for today’s market. Munuz of course didn’t argue that smart phones & new technologies such as NFC would eventually reach the prepaid consumer. He simply suggested that it’s still a few years down the road & that we need to focus on the reality of today.

On day 3, Joel Stanton of Lightspeed Research presented on the value that exists in today’s alternative prepaid market. He discussed the pros & cons with of both the closed-loop & opened-loop gift card industry. Stanton’s presentation was then followed by a discussion on how to best distribute prepaid card solutions. Thomas Honey of Better ATM Services discussed the numerous problems with the distribution of gift cards & cited specific examples such as banks offering VISA & MasterCard gift cards.

Looking back on this year’s show & the topics that were discussed we noticed a significant shift in attention towards the mobile market. We too believe that the mobile market offers huge potential for prepaid. As network speeds increase & mobile phone operating systems, mobile devices, & the mobile networks continue to open up there is an abundance of opportunity for companies to leverage the services & applications that can be developed for this market.

Our hats off to the folks at the Prepaid Press who were able to put together such an exciting & informative event. It was definitely worth us attending, it was great for our customers, & we look forward to maturing the many new relationships that were made at this year’s event.

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NetworkIP Team in Vegas

August 19, 2008

The NetworkIP team has packed their bags & by now most of the team has already arrived here in sunny Las Vegas! We are attending this year’s Prepaid Press Expo which is being held at Caesars Palace this Tuesday, August 19th through Thursday, August 21st.

 

Tomorrow morning we are holding our annual Prepaid Leadership Summit & later that night we will attend this year’s Expo (Toga) party which we happen to be sponsoring. Given this year’s theme, our CEO, Pete Pattullo, has volunteered his team (me included) to dress the part. The men of NetworkIP will dress as Gladiators & the women of NetworkIP will dress as Royal Goddesses. If you have yet to sign up for this year’s Prepaid Press Expo & party I recommend you do so now. It’s sure to be a show & party that you won’t want to miss. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!


Telecom & Prepaid Regulatory Updates – #1

August 18, 2008

It is extremely important that companies keep in synchronization with regulatory changes. At NetworkIP, we have taken the lead for our clients to ensure that they are made aware of regulatory items that affect their business. In an effort to share our knowledge of regulatory items affecting the telecom & prepaid industry we’ve decided to post this information to the Internet via our blog so that companies around the world could take advantage of this valuable information. It is my pleasure to bring to you the first of many “Telecom & Prepaid Regulatory Updates” courtesy of NetworkIP.

Telecom & Prepaid Regulatory Updates – #1
August 18, 2008
by: Jennifer Begin

If you are doing business in the telecom industry & have properly registered with the Federal Communications Commission & you have filed the 2008 Form 499-A (on 2007 Revenues) with USAC, you should be receiving invoices from the various regulatory agencies that govern this industry. As stated on the Form 499-A & further detailed in the instructions, those revenues reported are subject to Regulatory Fees other than just USF. On the last page of the form, there are boxes that must be checked which indicate for which fees you are eligible (not exempt from) to be billed. In an effort to further define what a customer should expect regarding these new invoiced amounts, below is detailed information about what is being billed & how the billing is calculated.

– NECA bills annually for the Telecommunication Relay Service (TRS) usually in July. If your contribution requirement is more than $1,200 then you can opt to have it billed monthly. Information on the 2008-2009 Interstate TRS Fund billing process is available at www.neca.org/NECA_Recources.asp. If you have questions regarding the calculation of your contribution, or need additional information you can contact Marina Aparicio at 973-884-8334 or maparic@neca.org.

– Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) bills monthly for USF fees based on the revenues reported on the 499-Qs. The bill gives detailed information on how they determine your contribution as well as whether you are LIRE eligible & De Minimis eligible.

– NeuStar bills monthly for Local Number Portability & Statement of Work (LNP/SOW) fees. This invoice is based on the revenue reported on the 499-A. You can view your invoice & instructions on “How to Read Your Invoice” through NeuStar’s password protected website at http://billing.neustar.com.

– FCC (Federal Communications Commission) bills annually, usually in the August-September time frame, for a Federal Regulatory Fee based on revenues reported on the 499-A. To find out how this regulatory fee is determined for your company, refer to the industry appropriate section under the heading “Who Owes Fees & What is My Fee” at http://www.fcc.gov/fees/regfees.html.

Information on these fees can be found in the 499-A instruction manual on pages 34-36.

* This article is strictly an overview & not to be construed as legal advice. You will need to apply this general information to your entity-specific situation & may need to seek legal advice to ensure you are in full compliance with the federal & state laws for telecommunications companies.


The 2008 Prepaid Leadership Summit

August 11, 2008

We are looking forward to hosting next week’s Prepaid Leadership Summit in Las Vegas at the 2008 Prepaid Press Expo. This will be our third year hosting the Prepaid Leadership Summit. The Summit provides us an opportunity to share our knowledge of the prepaid industry with our customers. We touch on new things that we are developing at NetworkIP, we provide our perspectives on what is happening in the prepaid industry (lot of regulatory items this year), & I have the pleasure this year of discussing new opportunities for our customers. This year’s summit is packed full of great information & is sure to be a HUGE success for all of our customers!

The Summit agenda is as follows:

Date: Wednesday, August 20th
Time: 8:00 to 11:00am
Location: Pisa/Palermo Room at Caesar’s Palace     

8:00 – 8:30am – Attendee Check-In & Breakfast

8:30 – 8:45am – NetworkIP Welcome Address
Speaker: Pete Pattullo, President & CEO

8:45 – 9:30am – NetworkIP Technologies & Features
Speakers: Nichole Janner, Vice President of Prepaid Services
Karthik Srinivasan, Director of Systems Engineering
Wendy Gauthier, Solutions Manager

9:30 – 9:45am – Regulatory Landscape
Speaker: Jennifer Begin, Regulatory Manager

9:45 – 10:15am – Mobile Opportunities
Speaker: Brian Kirk, Vice President of Business Development

10:15  – 10:45am – NetworkIP POSA & Transaction Services
Speakers: Doug Williams, Vice President of Transaction Services
Joslin Sansom, Transaction Services Manager
   

10:45  – 11:00am – Branding Dashboards
Speaker: Pete Pattullo, President & CEO


The Home Phone is No Longer a Necessity

July 22, 2008

Tomorrow AT&T will release its second-quarter earnings. It is projected that AT&T will fall short of their projections for this past quarter & many suspect that AT&T will lower expectations for 2008 as a whole.

AT&T, along with other major phone companies, has seen a significant decrease in landline services in Q2 of 2008. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the phone companies used to be largely insulated from economic downturns because most consumers considered their home service a necessity. However, now that over 80% of Americans own cell phones, the home telephone isn’t the necessity that it used to be.

It is my opinion that many Americans realized long ago that the home phone wasn’t a necessity, however, we choose to avoid the hassle of calling up the phone company & turning off our service & then having to inform all of our family & friends that we now only use our mobile phone. Now that the price of gas is $4 plus dollars we are willing to accept these hassles & actually disconnect our home phone services.

The disconnecting of home phone services also points to a number of other realities. First, the wireless networks have improved such that we aren’t worried so much about poor quality during our phone calls. Two, the cost of mobile phone services has decreased significantly & the notion of domestic long distance no longer exists. Three, the mobile phone has become such an integral part of our daily lives that we always have it with us & it is no longer something that we only use when we are away from home.

As we see a decrease in home phone services I suspect we’ll see an increase in business for prepaid calling card providers. Regardless of how much better those mobile phone calling plans have gotten, it is still quite difficult to find a good international long distance rate for mobile phone calling plans. Prepaid calling cards offer a great alternative for consumers that are looking for a low cost & good quality international long distance plan. With many prepaid long distance services offering PINless* dialing features & auto-recharge options it has become more convenient for users to gravitate to this type of service. These services have become practically invisible to the consumers using them.

I suspect that over the next 5 years we will continue to see the number of home phones diminish. Not only will more Americans cancel their existing services, but younger generations won’t even bother having them installed. Mobile services will continue to expand & until mobile international calling plans improve the prepaid long distance businesses will prosper.

* PINless dialing is a convenient feature that allows you to register your phone number(s) at the time of purchase so that you can place long distance calls without having to dial a PIN.


Summer Conference Schedule

July 18, 2008

My summer conference schedule so far includes the Prepaid Press Expo in Las Vegas in August & Mobilize in September in San Francisco.

NetworkIP is a regular at the Prepaid Press Expo. We’ve supported this event for many years now & it’s a great opportunity for us to get out & share with our clients what we are up to, what trends we see occurring in the prepaid industry, & what we plan to do to ensure our clients can take advantage of those new trends.

This will be our first year attending Mobilize, in fact I believe this will be the first year this show is held. We have the highest respects for the folks at GigaOm & believe they have pulled some of the brightest people together for this conference. We’ve been following the mobile space & working more closely with partners in this space this year. This event is sure to shed some light on where things are heading, or at least where we think this space is heading. With more mobile devices becoming open & network speeds increasing this is an exciting space for us to be involved in.

About the Prepaid Press Expo:

The prepaid industry has grown in three distinct branches – calling cards, wireless, and gift cards/alternative payments. These three diverse sectors converge at the retail level, but are still approached as different industries. No trade event today features the convergence…until now!

About Mobilize:

Mobilize is a conference developed by award-winning technology writer Om Malik to inform the entrepreneurial community about the opportunities present in the next phase of the mobile web. Working with Om on the program is GigaOM‘s resident technologist Surj Patel.

Industry-leading speakers will share their unique perspectives with Mobilize participants to guide them through the emerging opportunities in the next phase of the mobile web. We will feature the best technologies, the best thought leaders and the most innovative and inspiring startups.


Your Brand Can Be Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset

July 18, 2008

As a leader in the prepaid industry we realized the value of our clients building successful brands long ago. We take every opportunity to advise clients on what to do (brand-builders) & more importantly what not to do (brand-killers) in order to build a strong & successful brand for their product. We even went so far to develop a 3-part Branding Toolkit that provides our clients the tools & techniques to manage, measure profit, & protect their prepaid brand.

You can download NetworkIP’s 3-part Branding Toolkit from our website.

At NetworkIP we make it a point to continue building our knowledge base & sharing with our clients what we have learned & what others are saying about brand building. Just yesterday we caught a post from Om Malik describing the frustration he has with advertising being every where. Om initially opened with Delta’s plan for printing advertisements on their boarding passes & then he lead to talking about how IDT is going to begin inserting advertising messages on their prepaid calling cards. IDT, using VoodooVox as a technology provider, will play an advertisement to consumers based on the consumer’s demographic profile (where they are calling from or to) when making phone calls. While there may be additional dollars for IDT to gain from advertisers; will this strategy hurt their brand & ultimately generate in fewer prepaid calling card sales?

Before you rush to do the same as IDT is doing, consider for a moment what this will do to your brand’s image. How will your customers react to having advertisements played to them when making phone calls? Will you be able to offer your customers better rates because of the additional revenue made from the advertisements? Will the advertisements themselves offer value to your consumers or simply be a nuisance that they will not put up with?

We advise making sure you can answer these questions before doing anything to risk your brand. Brand awareness creates demand for your product & your brand can be your company’s most valuable asset!