Ifbyphone, VoIP Apps Provider Buys Cloudvox

Ifbyphone, a Chicago-area startup that offers cloud-based telephony services, has announced the acquisition of Cloudvox, part of the company’s move to build on its open-source software business. Financial details were not disclosed. Sometimes described as “Asterisk in the cloud,” Cloudvox, which launched last fall, offers web developers a way to control phone calls from the web or a software app without the need for added infrastructure.

The move gives Ifbyphone a scalable back end for its voice applications that’s accessible via an open API. Cloudvox offers “phone building blocks” that provide basic telephony functions such as making and receiving calls and presenting interactive voice response menus as well as performing more advanced tasks. Ifbyphone, which automates traditional and Internet phone calls through pre-built apps, plans to use the acquisition to enable businesses to leverage their existing Asterisk apps and bring them to scale through Ifbyphone’s infrastructure.

Ifbyphone aims to help developers create the kinds of mobile apps that will serve as differentiators in telephony as voice marches toward its all-IP future. A handful of landline operators have adopted that strategy, as witnessed by the recent acquisitions of Ribbit by BT and Jajah by O2/Telefonica. As Ifbyphone CEO Irv Shapiro told me:

I think we are facing a dramatic paradigm change in the world of telephony. Whether you’re a business or an individual you now have a choice about what causes your phone to ring, and that choice ranges from traditional phone companies to Skype. Because there’s so much choice on transport, the price of transport is racing toward zero. When you have a price of zero, you can’t make up (declining margins) with volume.

As we move increasingly toward VoIP, then, a key question to answer will be which of the entrenched players — from landline operators to cable companies to mobile carriers — are best equipped to handle the transition. And that will depend largely on which of the VoIP startups they join forces with.