Both companies sell local- and long-distance telephone service. Comcast,
through its nationwide infrastructure originally laid out for cable TV and
internet, competes with Vonage, which sells VOIP service that works over other
carriers’ internet backbone.
The agreement primarily consists of an increased level of communication
between both companies’ support networks, so that problems on one end, like
traffic bottlenecks or line issues, can be quickly resolved on the other.
“This [agreement] is primarily directed towards the principles around how
Comcast is going to manage traffic on their network in a way which isn't going
to adversely impact Vonage customers' use of the Comcast network,” said Vonage
CTO Louis Mamakos in
an interview with BetaNews.
Collaboration between the two companies greatly lessens one of Vonage’s
biggest bottlenecks: a lack of control over the infrastructure that its service
runs on. Vonage relies on minute-by-minute quality of service tracking, and
like most VOIP companies there is little it can do to resolve network issues.
This agreement gives the company some much-needed leverage, allowing it to do
things like call in support through a direct line between the companies’
“By having this relationship with one of the broadband ISPs, when I give
them a call and say, 'Hi, this is Vonage, we think we're seeing something
weird,' I'm not just some crank calling them on the phone. We have this working
relationship,” said Mamakos.
While one might consider such a collaboration agreement to be one-sided,
Mamakos says that it grants his team the ability to see metrics necessary to
better handle its own network. If a traffic peering point is backed up, for
example, Vonage can quickly buy additional bandwidth somewhere else, allowing
its software to quickly route around the problem.
Vonage will also assist Comcast in developing its “network agnostic”
management techniques, which the company announced earlier this year in
response to the “traffic
discrimination” scandal it fell into last year. The company previously
announced plans to draw up a “P2P
Bill of Rights” with P2P content-delivery firm Pando Networks.
“As a larger issue, I think this is a statement that two competitors, at
least in the telephony space, have publicly said, ‘We can coexist, we can each
go to market with our own suites of products that might appeal to different
sets of customers, and we can do this on a network that is going to treat all
these applications in a similar way, and not penalize any specific application,’”
said Mamakos. “That gets at the root of this protocol-agnostic network