The importance and the fragility of modern phone systems were demonstrated by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On Wall Street and at the Pentagon, callers could not get through clogged networks and damaged systems. The problems hindered businesses from quickly resuming operations.
TeleContinuity Inc. of Rockville has developed a communications technology that chief executive Roy Pinchot said can survive any emergency, Its Survivable Communication Network is an elaborate call-forwarding system that reroutes calls in an emergency using the Internet and the public telephone network. "We call it 'shoelacing,' " Pinchot said. "We can move calls in and out in both systems to avoid congestion."
Calls can be delivered through a telephone, cell phone, laptop computer, personal computer or personal digital assistant. The company plans to achieve this seamless service, with no lag time, by building a few hundred network hubs called transport points of presence across the United States to automatically transfer calls. Calls can be transferred to another switch should one hub become overloaded.
Pinchot, 63, has more than 40 years of management experience in communications and information services. He and the inventor of the technology, Raul Vera, 44, have both worked for call center companies. Michael Rosenberg, 32, the executive vice president and co-founder, worked for an e-commerce company.
Pinchot said TeleContinuity's technology can support the systems of any of the major telephone companies. "We can even back up the entire national phone system of the United States," he said.
TeleContinuity plans to charge $5 per month for a single phone line plus per-minute usage, as well as a one-time setup fee. The package includes features to use during an emergency, such as voice mail, speed dialing and conference calling. The price for each phone line could go down to $3.50 monthly for a large business under an enterprise license contract.
"What's critical is your number stays with you," Pinchot said. All calls from home or from work can be forwarded to one phone number, instead of multiple ones, Pinchot said. If an emergency happens, a subscriber can activate the system by telephone or TeleContinuity's Web site by providing an access code and the phone number for rerouting calls.
The company won a $1.7 million federal grant last year and just finished its first round of financing, which netted about $2.6 million of equity from investors.
Pinchot said TeleContinuity is working on a disaster-proof pilot program for the Defense Department. The company is set to open offices in Tokyo and London as part of its worldwide networking goals. A second version of the company's technology is expected to be released by mid-August.