In 1995, the concept of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) originated when a group of hobbyists realized the potential of sending voice data over the Internet rather than through a standard landline-based telephone, allowing PC users to avoid long-distance charges, taxes, and regulatory fees. While contemporary VoIP uses a standard telephone and Internet connection, early efforts in the history of VoIP required both callers to have a computer equipped with special software, a sound card, and a microphone. These early VoIP implementations were marked by poor quality and connectivity, said Doug Oberlander, president of VoiceSpring LLC, but they were a sure signal of VoIP technology’s promise.

Since then, VoIP usage has expanded dramatically. Oberlander has seen many large companies with remote office locations implement VoIP solutions to defray the costs of interoffice communications, and small businesses also benefit from cost savings over traditional telephone systems. The brief history of VoIP technology has shown a tremendous penchant for growth—a trend that Oberlander believes will no doubt continue in the coming years.

VoiceSpring began in January of 2006, as a result of the relationships of the other Oberlander Companies—Oberlander Communications, Oberlander Alarms, and Com-link. “The founding vision for VoiceSpring was to provide central Illinois businesses with an incredible value proposition for high-quality, low-cost phone service—and do this with fantastic service,” said Oberlander. “We envisioned central Illinois businesses benefiting by realizing the advantages of VoIP in the same time frame as residents of major cities.”

As part of this vision, VoiceSpring delivers a complete VoIP technology telecommunications service that provides local and long distance calling to businesses, business telephones and equipment if needed, a live call center for 24-hour customer service, and answering/receptionist service.

Like any successful start-up, VoiceSpring is experiencing significant and rapid growth, a key factor being that VoIP allows Oberlander and his team to deliver phone service at a significant savings—a top priority for every customer. “Rapid adoption is critical to the success of any new business,” Oberlander said. “The knowledge, experience, and dedication of our employees were also critical. When we provide savings of 20 to 45 percent, we get the attention of prospective customers very fast.”

The second part of the VoiceSpring vision—that local businesses would benefit greatly—has also been attained, according to Oberlander. “VoiceSpring has assembled a local team to provide the specialized knowledge, service, and support needed for true enterprise-class VoIP service early in the adoption cycle of the technology, rather than at the end. Since we launched our business, our vision of the rapid evolution of VoIP and its acceptance in the Peoria area has been validated and even strengthened. We attribute that growth to successfully delivering on our value promise of high-quality phone service—because if it isn’t good quality, no one will buy it.”

Once VoiceSpring has its foot planted firmly in the ground here in Peoria, in the next five years or so Oberlander plans to expand his company’s geographic footprint to include six to eight midwestern states, in order for VoiceSpring to also become an important regional provider of business phone service.

Many technology resources are now being applied to VoIP to further enhance its capabilities and reduce its costs, said Oberlander. “During the next few years, we anticipate VoIP deployment to accelerate exponentially both locally and on a national level.”

Thanks to VoIP technology, VoiceSpring phone service not only saves the customer money and includes all the popular features and benefits currently available, but it also offers a vast array of new features not yet commonly provided by traditional phone companies. VoiceSpring’s phone services include the actual telephone connection to your business previously only offered by the local traditional phone company. Customers can use VoiceSpring with their existing phone equipment, or the company also offers advanced VoIP phones and equipment. VoiceSpring’s basic services include 411-directory assistance service, operator services, voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, call conferencing, last number redial, and much more. While cost savings may be the initial attraction for many businesses, improvements that streamline many of the cumbersome routines—dialing phone calls, answering voicemail, routing calls, and managing the call traffic—are critical to VoiceSpring’s business clients’ satisfaction.

And while most other VoIP companies use the public Internet to carry the call traffic, VoiceSpring calls travel over a dedicated Internet network built exclusively for VoIP calls. This private network gives its customers call quality equal to traditional telephone service, eliminating the old complaints associated with VoIP calls.

“The community remembers VoIP in its infancy, when it provided low-quality calls between two computers,” said Oberlander regarding public misperceptions of VoIP. “Also, because most of us don’t know how PSTN (Public Service Telephone Network) calls work, we may distrust VoIP. What the community may not realize is VoIP has grown up. Now the largest household-name telephone companies—like AT&T, Bell South, and Verizon—use VoIP to transmit their phone calls over long distances in order to save carrier costs. These calls are converted from voice signals to VoIP digital ‘packets’ and then sent over large Internet backbone ‘pipelines.’ At the other end, the calls are translated back into ‘plain old telephone’ service and sent over the PSTN to your house or business. The long-distance carriers are getting the benefits of VoIP, but they’re not passing these on to the customer. VoiceSpring takes a tested technology and allows businesses to receive the same economic benefits of VoIP as ‘the big boys’ by using this new technology to send VoIP calls to your business.”

According to Oberlander, VoiceSpring’s most effective source of new customers has been through unsolicited testimonials of satisfied clients. “Our customers are very satisfied with their Voicespring phone service and they demonstrate that by telling others. Word-of-mouth advertising coming from satisfied customers has also been a great source of new leads for our salespeople.”

In order to maintain the quality of technology and service it currently provides its customers, VoiceSpring plans to continue to build out and enhance its network in Illinois, set up an ISP exclusively for VoiceSpring customers, and grow the company rapidly and in a planned, managed way that will be mutually beneficial to the company and its customers. That growth includes expansion of its marketing and sales throughout Illinois and to other states.

To make it more easy to understand, Oberlander offered the following points regarding his company and VoIP technology:

• VoiceSpring and VoIP are here for the long haul. VoIP isn’t a “flash in the pan” technology; it’s a viable alternative to traditional phone service that is rapidly replacing it. And like other Oberlander companies, VoiceSpring plans to provide service to local community for many years to come.
• VoIP is the phone technology of the future and will take the place of the traditional phone technology. The technical reasons for the evolution from the PSTN to VoIP are numerous: bandwidth efficiency creates more consumer savings, flexibility allows for rapid growth of features and capabilities, and more.
• VoIP is simpler and uses less equipment. It’s an established technology that’s already in use by the long-distance companies to transmit their customers’ phone calls. The infrastructure of traditional phone lines is old, and basically hardware-based, so it requires more maintenance.
• Nothing will change except your bill. Your VoIP phone call is transmitted over a fast-speed Internet line rather than a traditional phone line—but that process is invisible to you, the user. You will still have 411 and 911 service, and your business number will still be listed in the phone directory.

Oberlander admitted that the most challenging aspect of his business is to find and train people that have a combination skill set of telecommunications and computer aptitude. He also said it can be difficult to educate people that telephone lines aren’t necessary any more to have service, and to help people understand that the quality of VoIP is now equal to traditional phone service. The most rewarding? “Seeing how our customers react to the fact that this service works great and saves them lots of money,” Oberlander mused.

But the company’s network quality isn’t all that sets it apart from the competition. Oberlander said VoiceSpring follows the same principles as any Oberlander family company, and this quality service stands out in the community. “As an Oberlander family company, we al-ready have a strong track record of providing local businesses with quality communications products and services for over 50 years. These companies have been built on a high level of trust and integrity, and have consistently delivered high-quality products and exceptional cus-tomer service.”  IBI