A team that tried – and failed – to build a business from low-bandwidth voice-over-IP has returned to telecoms innovation, this time offering advanced corporate services, including a virtual cloud-based PBX, with global reach.
Martin Nygate and his son Daniel launched Nanu four years ago as a way of offering competition for Skype and Viber, with an essential difference: it would work over 2G and other low-bandwidth networks, such as satellites.
“There are still places that are predominantly 2G, where you couldn’t use high bandwidth,” recalls Nygate. Nanu grew out of their interest in the maritime industry: “People at sea wanted to use Skype and WhatsApp over satellite, but they didn’t work, because they needed too much bandwidth.”
His son developed technology to reduce the bandwidth Nanu needed to just one-fifth of that needed by more established rivals.
“We had 6.5 million downloads of our software, up to 35,000 a day at one time, and we were delivering one million calls a day through the network. We became second largest telco in Singapore after Singtel.”
But, in spite of its popularity, Nanu is no longer available. The problem was finding a way for low-income customers on 2G networks to pay for outgoing calls. “People didn’t have credit cards,” says Nygate, “so eight or nine months ago we shut down the service. It is no longer available.”
But the Nygates are undeterred. Father and son have rebuilt their technology into “an innovative platform that replaces PBXs”, using a cloud platform.
Their new company, Velox Networks, has a licence in Singapore to be a telecoms service provider, says Nygate. “The value proposition for business is outstanding,” said Nygate on a crystal-clear call – using Velox technology – from what looked like a regular Singapore number to the Global Telecoms Business office in London.
The cost is just US $13 a month per line, including an IP phone that plugs into an internet connection. “The price includes everything.” When a company takes a set of numbers they are organised as a sort of PABX in the cloud. “We are hosted on Amazon Web Services,” says Nygate. “And we can port numbers over from other providers.”
A telecoms licence brings obligations. Unlike some other voice-over-IP telephony companies Velox Networks offers access to emergency service numbers.
But surely cloud-based PBXs are nothing new? “Many companies can do it in the US, the UK and other countries, but in south-east Asia it’s different. We can provide an end-to-end service.” Velox Networks is officially operational in Singapore but it also has access to number ranges in Australia and the US and can deliver services wherever there’s an internet connection.
The company’s website (myvelox.com) lists partners such as BICS, Cable & Wireless Worldwide, IDT, PCCW Global and Vodafone. “We use the same aggregators as everyone else,” he says. And because the service is hosted in the cloud, “we can deploy globally easily”, he adds. “Our goal as a company is to get voice over IP licensed throughout south-east Asia. VoIP is not going away. Telcos cannot pretend otherwise.”
And it’s the future. “Incumbent telcos will not be able to survive,” he says, pointing to the number of employees many of them have. “We can deploy with 25-30 people. Incumbent telcos cannot compete. They can’t write off billions of dollars. You don’t need copper. Those copper cables are all redundant. Telcos can’t write off the money in copper.”
The next stage? Raising funding to pay for expansion, he says. He hopes that by the time of the GTB Innovation Summit he will have good news about that.