Unifi Communications Inc has launched its new e-fax desktop messaging service and says it plans to go for an initial public offering in the next 12 to 18 months. The service enables users to send e-mails that are then converted into fax format together with any attachments and forwarded to the recipients via the company’s international network of leased lines. Unifi, from Lowell, Massachusetts, says routing email messages through a single high speed connection, replaces the need for dozens of modems and dedicated phone lines, required when using traditional fax delivery methods. The company takes responsibility for any problems in sending messages by resending, rerouting or rescheduling delivery in difficult cases. Unifi says the service, which integrates with both X400 and SMTP systems, covers around 90% of faxing requirements for typical companies, and is aimed at the 100-seat plus enterprise market. The company claims it cuts out the need to buy expensive fax server hardware and software as well as maintenance costs. Unifi, 40% owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, made a somewhat tardy entry to the broadcast facsimile market earlier this year with the launch of its Unifi Broadcast service (CI No 3,246). Director of business development David Jones claims the company has had an encouraging response from customers interested in the service that kicked off in September. It recently opened an office in Beijing, which Jones claims reduced overall distribution costs by 4%. It maintains distribution costs will be further reduced as more offices open. Meanwhile the company says it plans to float some time in the next 12 to 18 months in New York, although it hasn’t yet decided which exchange. Unifi has revenues of around $50m with compound year-on-year growth of 15% but is still in what it euphemistically describes as a cash burn situation, recently raising $175m in debt on the US bond market. Despite current losses, the company is buoyant about the future, predicting that the fax broadcast industry will double over the coming year. Unifi e-fax will be available in the first quarter of 1998, either direct or through channel resellers. It is also planning a similar service for receiving faxes via email.
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