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Wiresurfer launches online telecom price comparison market

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Inspired by travel sites like Expedia, start-up Wiresurfer.com is promising to condense three days work into fifteen minutes for small companies shopping for telecommunications services.

The Coral Springs, Florida based company, is launching its website on Tuesday where small and medium sized businesses can compare prices for telephone and Internet services and see what promotions are on offer in their region.

Businesses can then order their service via Wiresurfer, which has signed up about fifteen telecom partners including AT&T Inc, Comcast, CenturyLink Inc, EarthLink Inc and Windstream Corp.

The idea is that choosing a telecom provider would be made as easy as booking a flight online.

Wiresurfer Chief Executive and co-founder Jeff Kaufman expects big demand for a service that makes procuring telecom services less time consuming.

Small businesses often have to spend up to three days trawling through the websites of multiple phone companies and then calling the companies individually to find the best deals, he said.

"The process of actually shopping for telecommunications services even at the small business level is complex," said Kaufman, "It's a giant time suck."

The phone companies have agreed to pay Wiresurfer a portion of each customer's phone bill for the duration of their contract with payments ranging from 14 percent to 25 percent of the phone bill, Kaufman said.

With a target market of 50 million U.S. small businesses, Kaufman said he hopes to break even about eight months after launch and to have over 16,000 customers within about 30 months.

In the meantime, the company said it has an angel investment of $200,000 from Nantucket based entrepreneur Alan Bankart. It is also seeking a round of venture capital funding.

If the service takes off then the business telecom services market could potentially become more competitive, according to Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova, who follows technology and telecom sales channels around the world.

"If you look at other industries that have had an online marketplace aggregate multiple suppliers they have resulted in creating a much more competitive market," Bova said referring to the travel, hotel and insurance industries.

Even though telecom contracts come up for renewal only once every year or two, Bova argued that even if Wiresurfer gains just a small part of the market it could have a solid business.

"There's lots of room here," the analyst said.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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