Partnering Is The Name Of The Game
BY JOHN SHAW
Whether breaking into a new market or striving to maintain a
competitive edge in their traditional markets, service providers (SPs)
must make critical decisions about how best to move forward into today's
new world of IP-based telecommunications. In a move that is illustrative
to any SP contemplating these challenges, Teltran
International has chosen Cisco System's
voice gateways, TCS' VoIP call
control software, and MIND's calling
card and billing solutions to offer prepaid VoIP calling card services.
Since it began originating and terminating VoIP traffic in 1998,
Teltran, a global facilities-based common carrier, has terminated millions
of minutes worldwide for its customers, telecom partners, and affiliates.
The company selected the Cisco/TCS/MIND solution to help it increase the
quality, capacity, and reliability of its VoIP network and products.
Prepaid calling cards constitute one of the fastest growing enhanced
voice services in the industry. Created on open platforms and offering
comprehensive billing solutions, the cards allow SPs to provision
carrier-class data services for both the PSTN and packet telephony
networks. This ensures a smooth migration to the new world while
generating high-margin revenue today.
"We're from the wholesale long-distance world, but the margins are
getting much smaller so we have moved over to VoIP and retail
services," says Peter Biagioli, vice president, sales and marketing
for Teltran. "Prepaid VoIP calling cards offered the best transition
for us, but we needed help."
TREMENDOUS MARKET POTENTIAL
International Data Corporation estimates that the IP telephony market
will grow from 2.7 billion minutes in 1999 to 135 billion minutes in 2004.
It expects IP telephony service revenue to increase from $480 million to
nearly $19 billion in the same time frame.
To take full advantage of this opportunity, Teltran sought a solution
that it could take to market rapidly. "By hand-picking each part of
this solution, we were able to deploy our VoIP service much faster -- and
thus more profitably -- than we could have otherwise," explains
Teltran's vice president of operations, Mitchell Hershkowitz.
Further, the company required a system that would serve its current
strategy -- offering prepaid IP calling cards -- and at the same time
establish an open architecture base from which to upgrade and offer future
services in the most cost-effective manner. "Our ultimate goal is to
provide a variety of value-added applications with a low cost per
minute," Biagioli says. "The architecture and billing support
systems we have chosen allow us to build upon this first step --
generating high-margin revenue today -- while ensuring a smooth migration
to the provisioning of future services."
By selecting vendors that work in partnership, Teltran was able to
take advantage of each partner's strengths to build an exact solution that
fits its particular application needs, service size, and support
requirements. "Cisco asked us about our current operations and future
plans, and helped tailor this solution to guide us down that path,"
Cisco Provides The VoIP Gateway
Cisco's VoIP gateway solution consists of several interoperable
components. These include the AS5300/Voice Gateway, the VCO/4K
programmable switch, and the 3660 router.
The Cisco AS5300/Voice Gateway is a high-performance H.323-compliant
gateway optimized for VoIP applications. Supporting up to four T1/E1
digital trunks, it connects with existing telephones and fax machines
through the PSTN, key systems, and PBXs, making the process of placing
calls over the IP network transparent to users. Teltran's configuration
enables it to handle a significant number of simultaneous voice calls over
a single dial-in telephone number.
Cisco's VCO/4K open, programmable switch is a carrier-grade services
platform that enables multiple voice applications. In addition to calling
cards, these include voice/fax messaging, single-number service,
voice-activated dialing, interactive voice response, and Web-initiated
services. It integrates seamlessly into existing telecommunication
infrastructures to deliver core and enhanced voice services for the PSTN
as well as new world, packet-based networks. In this solution, TCS
programmed Teltran's VoIP application into the VCO/4K switch.
The Cisco 3660 is a multifunction access router. With multiple modular
interface options, the Cisco 3660 provides solutions for voice/data
integration, VPN dial access and multiprotocol data routing. The modular
architecture of this access router integrates the functions of several
devices (here, the AS5300/Voice Gateway and the VCO/4K) into a single,
The Cisco VoIP solution is scalable -- from small systems to 500
million-plus end user accounts. It also offers an interface to value-added
systems such as those of TCS and MIND.
TCS VoIP Call Control
TCS is providing Teltran with a next-generation network solution that
facilitates VoIP transmission and the integration of new, value-added
voice and data services. TCS is providing its LiteSwitch Intelligent
Services Architecture, a "softswitch" layer that controls
Cisco's voice and data network devices and integrates service creation,
media management, and SS7 signaling in an IP environment.
In addition to the call control functionality, TCS offers a suite of
enhanced voice applications such as unified messaging, Internet/PRI
offload, card services, and find-me/follow-me functionality. These
applications can be integrated through the service creation environment or
sourced from third parties using TCS' published API and developer toolkit.
Initially, TCS will be configuring LiteSwitch to allow Teltran to
expand and more efficiently manage its Cisco-powered international VoIP
network. The companies are collaborating on future plans to add new
applications and additional Web-based operations support systems (OSS)
management tools to enhance Teltran's next-generation network further.
MIND's Billing, Customer Care, and Calling Card Solutions
The dynamic field of IP telephony billing, unlike traditional
telephony billing, demands real-time call handling. MIND-iPhonEX is a
carrier-grade, real-time billing and customer care system for the emerging
VoIP industry. It was recently enhanced to handle convergent billing for
diverse IP services.
MIND-iPhonEX handles both prepaid and post-paid billing, creation and
management of prepaid calling cards, real-time cut-off of calls,
individualized customer rate tables, and flexible fax charge options by
page, duration, or priority (real time or store and forward). Support
systems provide call management reports, traffic analysis (monitoring of
the load on each gateway and line) and tracking of excessive use,
including fraud alarms.
Web interfaces simplify customer care, registration, and subscriber
verification of real-time balances and call details. The interfaces allow
customers to access up-to-the-minute account information quickly and
conveniently, and represent an effective tool for customer service
Teltran expects to be providing 15 to 20 million minutes per month by
the fourth quarter of this year. "We specified the equipment to reach
that level," Hershkowitz says. "And the great thing about this
solution is that it's fully scalable -- when we reach that level we will
simply upgrade the system to handle additional traffic."
Deregulation around the globe is enabling more and more companies to
compete in the dynamic international telecommunications market. This has
fueled unprecedented competition, which in turn is forcing SPs to re-think
their services as they strive to differentiate themselves in the
"Everyone is recognizing the need to partner with others to create
a tailored, turnkey solution for the customer," says Teltran's
director of marketing and public relations, Melanie Gordon. "If the
customer doesn't see the value added, they'll go elsewhere."
Selecting flexible, "best-of-breed" solutions based on open
architecture offers SPs the opportunity to serve their customers' current
needs and establish a base for longer-term growth as they move into the
new world of IP-based telecommunications. The Teltran strategy is one that
SPs worldwide can emulate as they migrate their services to
packet-switched networks, where their future success lies.
John Shaw is director of marketing for the Enhanced Services and
Migration Business Unit of Cisco Systems. Cisco provides end-to-end
networking solutions that customers use to build a unified information
infrastructure of their own, or to connect to someone else's network. An
end-to-end networking solution is one that provides a common architecture
that delivers consistent network services to all users. For additional
information, visit Cisco's Web site at www.cisco.com.
the July 2000 table of contents ]