SunRocket buys time for former VoIP customers

Update: SunRocket customers given 10 days to sign up with another carrier. 'Too early' to say if customers will be refunded

Former SunRocket customers were given 10 days Thursday to sign up with another carrier and have their phone numbers ported, the company winding down the failed VoIP business said.

Sherwood Partners has signed a definitive agreement to sell some SunRocket network assets to VoIP provider TeleBlend and will use the proceeds to keep SunRocket service going until midnight U.S. Eastern time on Aug. 5, said Martin Pichinson, co-managing member of Sherwood Partners.

Pichison could not say if customers would be refunded, however. "It's too early in the process [to say]."

SunRocket, which offered unlimited U.S. domestic calling for $199 per year, folded last week. It had about 200,000 customers.

Several VoIP providers are offering deals to former customers. TeleBlend, a joint venture of Unified Communications and competitive local exchange carrier USA Telephone, is one of two companies that has agreed to pay Sherwood Partners a fee for each former customer they sign up. The other is VOIP carrier 8x8.

Sherwood Partners did not disclose how much TeleBlend paid for the assets. The purchase buys some time for former SunRocket customers to switch to another customer, Pichinson said. At the end of the day Aug. 5, SunRocket service will cease.

TeleBlend is offering ex-SunRocket customers a monthly subscription rate of $12.95 for the duration of their previous SunRocket contract. They can keep their phone numbers and continue using their SunRocket phones, the company said.

Pichison said the first stage of the process of the closing of SunRocket, "not a happy time, and we know it," was ensuring a smooth transition of service for customers.

Teleblend and 8x8 were first chosen to take over because they had proven to handle porting of phone numbers faster than other providers, he said.

The second step, started with the deal with Teleblend to sell some SunRocket assets announced Thursday, was to see what was able to be tapped, in terms of assets including IP (intellectual property), to return funds to creditors, including paying customers.

Mike Barton, Online Editor of InfoWorld, contributed to this report.