A New VoIP Service Approach: Unlimited Yearly

SunRocket, a relatively recent entrant in the ranks of VoIP service providers, is hoping to attract new customers — and keep them — by signing them up to one-year unlimited calling plans for $199. Will the other VoIP services follow suit?

VoIP provider SunRocket has unveiled an annual subscription plan in which users can receive unlimited service for $199 a year, or $16.59 per month, below the monthly fees of other providers, even after a recent round of industry rate cuts.

The company’s service normally sells for $24.95 per month.

The service is available for purchase now in the 50 markets that SunRocket serves. Immediate activation is available in the Boston, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metro areas. Activation is available in other markets any time after Dec. 25. The one-time fee includes 12 months of service from the activation date.

SunRocket is positioning the pricing plan as its “gift edition,” promoting the service as a holiday gift. All of the necessary equipment comes in a gift box. Company officials didn’t return calls, so it’s unknown if the promotion will continue after the holidays.

Though the pricing is lower than fees for other providers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see other companies launch similar lower-priced annual plans. Comcast, Wide Open West and other cable companies have used annual subscription plans for a couple of years.

Though they don’t require the money all up front as the SunRocket plan does, the cable company officials see a good trade-off for a discount (as much as 20 percent in some instances) in exchange for a guaranteed customer for 12 months. This eliminates churn, a very costly problem for telecommunications companies. It costs as much as 10 times more to get a new customer as to keep a current one, according to some business consultants.

So it wouldn’t be surprising to see Vonage, AT&T and other VoIP providers come out with their own annual plans.

The SunRocket service itself includes a bonus multi-handset phone system; a second phone number with its own distinctive ring, feature settings and voicemail box, and $3 of international calling every month. According to the company, that’s 30 minutes or more to any of 75 countries based on SunRocket rates.

The service also includes two free directory assistance calls per month, Web-enhanced voice mail, call logs, call waiting and caller ID.

SunRocket is one of the newer entries in the VoIP market, starting business earlier this year, with Boston, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. as the company’s initial markets.

“We understand that it takes more than great features and low prices to change an industry,” the company says on its Web site. “It takes passionate people creating smart solutions that allow you to be more efficient, more in-control, and more productive. It takes clever ideas that make the boring, fun; the confusing, simple; the difficult, easy. It takes a genuine commitment from all of us to provide you with superior products, services, and assistance.

“Even more,” the Web site adds, “It takes a commitment to simply do the right thing, a promise often unfulfilled by other phone companies. We are determined to be a champion for consumers, designing products that work as they should and defining policies that are fair and sensible.”