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Review: My First Day With Vonage, Excellent!
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Vonage Customer Review: One month with Vonage, and...
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Internet Phone Call Firm Gets $105 Mil Infusion


Vonage In Print News

Internet Phone Call Firm Gets $105 Mil Venture Capital Infusion

August 26, 2004

By Reinhardt Krause

Internet calling upstart Vonage Holdings — fighting regulatory and marketing battles — has a lot more money to spend on lawyers and advertising.

The startup phone company said Wednesday that it has raised $105 million in a new financing round led by venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

Overall, Vonage has raised more than $208 million from private investors, including venture firms NEA, 3i and Meritech Capital.

Vonage has signed up 200,000 customers in the U.S. and Canada for its Internet phone service. It plans to expand into the U.K., Pacific Rim and Latin America.

Vonage does not want Internet calling regulated like traditional phone services. To achieve that, it's been wooing lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It's hired high-powered law firm Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman to fight its battles in Washington.

In mid-August, Vonage asked the Federal Communications Commission to shut the door on state regulation of emerging voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, services. Many states want to regulate Voip like traditional phone services.

Some big venture capital firms seem to be betting that Vonage can win its regulatory battles. But an initial public offering may have to wait until regulatory issues are clarified and the IPO market improves.

In August, companies in various sectors delayed plans to go public or pared back offerings.

Vonage Chief Financial Officer John Rego says it's in no rush to do an IPO.

This financing, he said, "funds the company for just about everything we want to do, especially in terms of expanding our marketing.

"We have no intention of doing an IPO right now. When the time is right, and if there are compelling reasons, we'll do it. Some of the most successful companies, ever, went public in bad markets. A perfect example is Microsoft."

Edison, N.J.-based Vonage raised $35 million in a round of financing in November 2003, and $40 million in January.
Dot-com entrepreneur Jeffrey Citron founded Vonage and holds the most stock in the company. Citron also started online stock-trading firms Island ECN and Datek Online Holdings.

In 2002, Ameritrade (AMTD) bought Datek for $1.3 billion in stock. Citron, who left Datek in 1999, faced unlawful trading charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He agreed to pay a $22 million fine, but didn't admit to any wrongdoing.

Aside from Citron, NEA is the biggest private investor in Vonage.

"Voice delivery over the Internet has reached an inflection point and is rapidly displacing legacy phone service," NEA managing partner Peter Barris said in a statement.

Vonage, primarily a software company, has partnered with gear makers to sell consumers the adapter kits they need to make Internet calls. Vonage's software works over high-speed Internet hookups — cable modems or digital subscriber lines from phone companies.

The firm's needs are minimal. The company says it has spent only $15 million to install switches that handle Voip calls in the U.S.

Analysts say Vonage's growth is tied to broadband. Other startups selling Voip services include Skype, 8x8 and Voiceglo. Some traditional phone companies, led by Qwest, AT&T and Verizon, are rolling out Voip services, too.
In the U.S., about 28 million homes had cable modem or DSL services as of June 30, says UBS Investment Services.

It forecasts that number to reach 42 million by the end of 2005.

Nielsen/NetRatings says more than 50% of U.S. homes with Internet access had broadband hookups as of July, up from 38% a year earlier.

And a recent Pew Research study says 27% of American have heard of Voip phone services.

Federal regulators have shied away from imposing rules on new Voip services.

"VoIP is here to stay," said Vonage's Rego. "It's an unstoppable freight train. What regulatory role the states ultimately have is anybody's guess."

Vonage charges $30 a month for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada.

That's $10 to $15 cheaper than Voip services from the likes of AT&T and Verizon. And $20 cheaper than unlimited plans that use regular phone networks.

Some Voip startups offer cheaper services than Vonage. Not all offer 911 capabilities, directory assistance and other features that Vonage sells, though.

Vonage sells its Internet kits, which connect to regular phones, at Circuit City and Staples stores. Vonage has partnered with gear makers, including Motorola, to develop Voip adapter kits.

On Tuesday, Vonage said Linksys, owned by Cisco Systems, (CSCO) would sell wireless gear for homes with built-in Voip hookups.

Later this year, Netgear will roll out a wireless home device.

Netgear's router will be the first product to include Voip chips developed by Vonage and Texas Instruments, (TXN) Rego says



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

** Certain call types excluded.

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