VOIP Business Services—What And How?
by William Bushnell

Published March 2001




Many of the new telecom service providers have focused their network investments on serving business customers; after all, in Willie Sutton's immortal words, "That's where the money is." However, many of these service providers have found it difficult to be economically viable using traditional circuit-switching equipment to offer traditional business services.


At the recent BCR/McQuillan Ventures Next Generation Networks (NGN) conference, several panelists in the Symposium on Next Generation Telephony proposed that CLECs could attract business customers with new voice over IP (VOIP) business services that use IP phones controlled by a softswitch. Similarly, ILECs look at softswitch-based IP telephony as a means of retaining their Centrex customers against the CLECs and the new IP PBXs. Rather than competing for customers solely on price, carriers are realizing that new services that automate tasks, simplify training or improve call management are the key to the new telecom economy.


IP Centrex provides many advantages over traditional Centrex, most of which are based on the elimination of dedicated loops for each Centrex set. This enables automatic customer station rearrangement, and savings in OPXs and access facilities.


However, IP Centrex needs a rich set of features to be accepted by most businesses, and it is unclear how to deliver interoperable business services by putting together a collection of features built independently by various third-party software developers. Fortunately, several competing platforms can be used to implement new services, even though none of the platforms is well suited to support all new services.


Clearly, there needs to be more cross-platform discussion within the industry on these options. The first thing we need is to understand which platforms are best at offering which services (i.e., by staging a platform "bakeoff"). For example, for large service providers with an embedded base of Centrex customers, it may be more effective to implement "click to dial" features using an AIN platform with Web access than via a server that can only support IP phones. In contrast, since multimedia conferencing bridging services only pertain to IP phones, the best platform for the service is a softswitch.


Ultimately, however, the real value of IP Centrex may lie in its ability to provide end users with more control.



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