Viper Strikes Retail Pact

By Colin C. Haley

July 20, 2004

The VoIP firm enlists another retailer to sell its phones, equipment and service.

Voice over Internet protocol specialist Viper Networks has partnered with retailer Zones , expanding its reach in a hot -- and hotly contested -- market. Zones caters to businesses of all sizes and to government agencies, selling through its call center, account executives, catalogs and Web site.

The agreement is Viper's third this summer: earlier, it enlisted PC Mall and Tiger Direct. The deal puts Viper products alongside those of titans like 3Com, Cisco and HP.

Among Viper's offerings is the vPhone, a cellular-sized handset that plugs into a USB port and lets users make calls on the Viper network from any Internet-connected PC. The five-year-old company also sells IP phone adapters, which plug into a computer with a USB cable on one side and any regular telephone on the other.

It recently introduced a Wi-Fi phone, allowing users to make voice calls via public or private Wi-Fi hotspots.

Viper offers service over a worldwide network, which it has augmented through acquisitions. It currently has 16 network Points Of Presence in Europe, and 13 in Asia.

The far-flung network hubs play into Viper's strength of offering low-cost long-distance service to people who frequently call overseas -- a potential differentiator.

Viper faces a lot of competition for its service, from upstarts like Vonage to larger carriers and service providers including AT&T and Time Warner Cable, which are jumping into VoIP.

A Viper spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. Last week, after its stock dropped, the company said it is not backing away from earlier statements that it expects to turn a profit this year.



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