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July 1999

The Enhanced Services Race: Heating Up
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As the fast-paced world of data communications collides with the heretofore deliberate, plodding world of telecommunications, new opportunities are springing up like never before. Traditional voice giants, such as AT&T and MCI/WorldCom , are carrying ever greater amounts of data on their networks, and the recently fledgling Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are beginning to rethink their positions on voice. The Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) are teaming up with ISPs at an increasing rate to enable a new way of doing business, merging their resources and philosophies to generate new business and retain existing customers.

It’s a marriage made in communications heaven, as ISPs look to add voice to their menu of services and CLECs look to the world of Internet connectivity to augment their offerings. It’s all about the services, and as the New World service providers choose up sides and prepare enhanced service offerings to differentiate themselves, the race is just heating up.

So, as the telecom folks look to data and the data folks seek to offer voice, what’s a bystander to make of all of this? Doesn’t it make sense that the larger communications companies should be able to provide us with service that meets our expectations? If the big guys are doing data now, why should we put all of our communications needs into the hands of an up and coming service provider? Simply put, speed and service. A smaller firm will always react to market pressure faster than the established giants will. If customers are crying out for converged services, the smaller ISP/CLEC combination will be able to tailor its offering faster than the traditional stodgy old carrier.

Ok, so let’s say the small guy is offering a particular service, spends a fortune on building up the infrastructure, acquiring customers, and marketing the service. Then one day, the carrier steps in, and begins to offer the same exact service, only it’s free. What would you do as the customer? Well, it’s no wonder customer retention is such a difficult prospect. The trick is for the service provider to react quickly, find out what the customer needs, and offer a wide palette of enhanced services before the big guy gets a chance to head him off at the next pass. The two elements that are needed to maintain such a strategy are a platform upon which to create the next-generation of enhanced services, and the services themselves.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Jeff Paine and Bill Leslie of Magellan Network Systems . The folks at Magellan have spent the last three years designing a telecom services system that can address the issues of speed and service. Just released in beta, and scheduled for general availability next month, Magellan’s Mariner system is designed to speed creation and deployment of differentiated services for both PSTN and Internet telephony (VoIP) networks. Initially, the product is optimized for PSTN use, but an IP network-ready version of Mariner will be available by the middle of Q399.

According to Jeff Paine, Magellan’s VP of marketing, “Mariner’s architecture is designed to let New World carriers take on the traditional telco world and win.” Mariner’s CTI-based open architecture enables service providers to more rapidly create and deploy new services than traditional Intelligent Network service creation tools. The system’s Service Creation Environment (SCE) enables fast and easy layout of enhanced service call flows using an integrated modified version of Visio. Once the call flows are compiled, they are loaded into Mariner’s distributed Service Execution Environment (SEE), at which point they are available for use within the network. The product, currently based on Cisco’s (www.cisco.com) VCO 4K programmable switch, comes with its own real-time customer care and billing suite, called Manifest. Manifest also supports real-time fraud control.

Magellan provides the creation and deployment environment, but what about applications?

Premiere Technologies
One company that’s already involved in network-based applications is Premiere Technologies . Their Orchestrate product suite is a unified messaging service that does wonders for road warriors. To begin with, the company has approximately 4,500 cities in 12 countries that are connected to their network-based voice messaging application. That means that users get ubiquitous local access to their messages. No more long-distance charges just to find out that the local newspaper is having another subscription drive, and by the way, would you be so kind as to call back?

Premiere’s Orchestrate runs on Sun Microsystems’ Solaris hardware, and in fact, Sun has promised to jointly market the unified messaging solution with Premiere. The system lets users check all of their messages by phone: Voice mail, e-mail, and fax (headers). If you prefer to check messages from your PC, then voice mail appears as a Real Audio attachment, which you can hear through the PC’s speakers. The Orchestrate system takes advantage of text-to-speech technology as well, so users can reply to voice mail, with, say an e-mail, which can be converted to a voice message deposited into the recipient’s voice mailbox.

Premiere also offers an enhanced service called Orchestrate Personal Assistant. Similar to several other available technologies, the service allows users to retain a single point of contact for e-mail, voice mail, faxes, and follow-me service: extremely useful for the on-the-go business traveler.

There are quite a few other network-based virtual assistants available as well. In fact, TMC Labs’ own Evan Koblentz put together an in-depth comparison of the various virtual assistants in the June issue of CTI magazine. I urge you to check it out online at www.ctimag.com.

Three of the more established players in the space are General Magic , Wildfire Communications, and Webley Systems . Their product offerings are also the most robust, offering natural speech recognition as the preferred method of accessing your services.

General Magic
This past May, BellSouth began offering General Magic’s Portico personal assistant service to its customers. The service delivers to customers a variety of features that manage and simplify communications, including:

  • Voice dialing — Place calls by simply speaking the digits of the phone number, or by speaking the name of the person you are calling if they are listed in your personal phonebook.
  • Personal organizer — Manage your phone book list or schedule appointments over the phone or via a Web browser.
  • Public information access — Stay plugged into news and stock activity with customized information. The personal assistant will even notify you if the price of your favorite stock changes throughout the day.
    The Portico service also provides users with a unified messaging platform to keep track of all of their disparate e-mail, voice mail, and fax messages.

Addressing the ever increasing number of wireless users, Wildfire has been engaged in trials with Orange, one of the United Kingdom’s largest and fastest growing digital mobile phone network operators.

Wildfire takes messages and phone numbers, when users cannot answer their calls. The program actually has a personality and as well as following spoken instructions, can also make and take calls. As the service is used recurrently, Wildfire develops and adapts to a user’s personal requirements, building up a personal list of names and numbers. Orange marketing literature has labeled this feature “a phonebook in the sky.” Wildfire can store up to 150 personal contacts, with six phone numbers for each contact, including home, work and mobile. All a user has to say, for example, is “Wildfire, call Greg at home,” and the service will immediately place the call.

France Telecom is also currently in trials of the enhanced service for SOHO professionals. The trial service — the first of its kind in France — is scheduled to run until September 30.

Webley, from Webley Systems, is another competitor in the virtual assistant space. The product’s British accent gives it the air of being the classiest system, but of course, that doesn’t help road warriors in and of itself. While Webley may lack some of the features associated with the two assistants mentioned above, Webley stands out for its superb conference calling features and its relatively low price.

Another interesting enhanced service that I recently stumbled upon is from a startup called Onebox.com. Onebox.com is a free phone and Web-based service that allows consumers to easily access all communications needs from one convenient place. Anyone who relies on e-mail, from mobile professionals to college students, will appreciate One-box.com’s simplicity and privacy. Users can receive, share, store and organize all their messages, and it works with any existing e-mail account. Also, when the Web is not accessible, users are able to retrieve their messages from any phone.

The difference between the Onebox approach and other unified messaging vendors, according to Julie Farris, Onebox’s director of marketing, is that the company uses a Web approach, not a telephony approach. Primarily targeted towards the consumer market, the company told me that they would be willing to partner with and perhaps even sell their service to ISPs and other carriers to resell to their customers.

Obviously, the enhanced services that I mentioned here are but a drop in the bucket when compared to the massive effort underway to provide users with the enhanced services that will dominate and define the telecommunications market in the not-too-distant future. For more information on any of the services mentioned in this article, visit the companies’ Web sites. And to see what other players are involved in the enhanced services space, check out the news items flanking this article. This market is just beginning to take off, so hold on, it’s gonna be a fun ride.

Services News

MediaOne And AT&T Sign Merger Agreement, Microsoft Agrees To Accelerate Deployment of Broadband Services
MediaOne Group and AT&T have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which MediaOne Group’s shareholders will receive .95 of a share of AT&T common stock, and at least $30.85 in cash for each share of MediaOne Group stock they own. AT&T and Microsoft have announced a series of agreements in which they will work together to accelerate the deployment of next-generation broadband and Internet services. Microsoft will purchase $5 billion of AT&T securities, AT&T will increase its use of Microsoft’s TV software platform in advanced set-top devices, and both companies will work together to showcase new digital cable services.
No. 540, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

CableLabs Certifies GI And Arris Cable Modems
Cable Television Laboratories (CableLabs) have announced that they have certified for retail sale cable modems from General Instrument (GI) and Arris Interactive. CableLabs has qualified headend equipment needed for interoperable high-speed data distribution from Cisco Systems. The GI and Arris announcement results from additional testing necessary to isolate the source of nonconformance with the cable modem specification which otherwise would have resulted in these suppliers’ products not being certified.
No. 541, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Tekelec Intros IP7 Suite Of ProductsFor Telcos And ISPs
Tekelec has announced a new product line designed to enable the convergence of voice and data networks. The IP7 product line delivers flexible SS7 and IP connectivity and features to allow carriers and service providers to seamlessly link the PSTN and IP networks. Tekelec’s products couple the command and control functions of the SS7 network with the speed and economy of the IP network, and include IP maintenance, monitoring, and diagnostics. The initial product offering includes IP7 Secure Gateway, IP7 Edge, IP7 NP (number portability/number pooling), and IP7 Sentinel.
No. 542, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Priority Telecom Launches Int’l VoIP Backbone
Priority Telecom, the competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) and integrated telephony services division of United Pan-Europe Communications, has announced the first phase implementation of its international telecommunications network strategy. This phase of development will connect Priority Telecom switches located in Oslo, Norway; Paris, France; and Vienna, Austria, utilizing the Cisco family of router and VoIP products. The interconnection of switches will allow Priority Telecom to take full advantage of IP technology in maximizing the utilization of the existing backbone, while increasing the least cost routing availability for the company’s international traffic.
No. 543, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

NetSpeak’s New Solutions Suite Unleashes Revenue Potential Of VoIP For Service Providers
NetSpeak Corp. has unveiled a new solutions suite, which makes it easier for service providers to produce revenue-generating VoIP solutions. The NetSpeak solutions suite is based on the company’s intelligent call management and scripting technologies and H.323v2-compatibility. At the heart of this new suite is the NetSpeak Gatekeeper, an H.323v2-compatible technology which locates and controls any of NetSpeak’s other call management products — Route Server, Media Server, Event Management Server, WebPhone, Mini WebPhone, Gateway Exchange — and any H.323v2-interoperable edge device.
No. 544, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

HarmonyCom Unveils Harmony
HarmonyCom has announced Harmony, providing a fresh approach to enable broadband data services “to be delivered right the first time.” Harmony’s dynamic end-to-end model of the service and network resources allows service providers to access real-time service and network information in order to automate new service orders, design services, and reserve resources for service activation. This approach helps service providers reduce the complexities of the service provisioning process, improving customer service while reducing overall operating costs.
No. 545, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

U S WEST Licenses Phone.com’s Wireless Internet Platform
Phone.com (formerly Unwired Planet) has announced that U S WEST has licensed the Phone.com UP.Link Server Suite to enhance its wireless data infrastructure. The UP.Link Server Suite, comprised of server, microbrowser, and software development kit, is a comprehensive, open, and robust system that enables interactive Internet information services, and value-added telephony applications on wireless handsets running the UP.Browser microbrowser. U S WEST’s PCS CDMA data infrastructure enhanced with the UP.Link Server Suite is a complete wireless voice and data network solution.
No. 546, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Astrolink Formed With $900 Million Investment By Lockheed Martin, Telespazio, And TRW
Astrolink LLC has announced that it has received $900 million in equity from founding partners Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, Telespazio, and TRW, Inc. With this funding, Astrolink has begun construction of the system, which will be the world’s first global on-demand, wireless broadband service provider, scheduled to offer service in 2003. Astrolink will focus on the high-growth area of broadband data services, carrying traffic for Internet, intranet, multimedia, and corporate data networks.
No. 547, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

NetPhone Intros IPBXmail Visual Voice Mail
NetPhone has announced the NetPhone IPBXmail visual voice mail system, which enables users to access and administer voice mail messages from a Web browser, and to view messages integrated with their e-mail inboxes. Additional capabilities help users screen, prioritize, and queue calls, plus route calls automatically to home or cell numbers, or to coworkers. IPBXmail will be bundled with NetPhone IPBX, NetPhone’s open system for integrating voice and data communications across corporate intranets.
No. 548, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

VIP Calling And Glocalnet Peer To Achieve Global Presence
VIP Calling and Glocalnet have announced an agreement to provide peering between their IP telephony networks. Since both VIP Calling and Glocalnet operate networks based on Cisco equipment, their combined presence creates the first truly global, toll-quality, one-stage dialing Internet telephony network. Under the agreement, Glocalnet will benefit from VIP Calling’s comprehensive IP telephony footprint in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. VIP Calling will gain access to Glocalnet’s leading European network, adding numerous POPs to the VIP Calling network.
No. 549, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Cisco Launches Voice Applications Partner Program
Cisco Systems has announced a new partner program that creates a system of partners developing innovative voice applications on an open network architecture. Cisco’s approach enables the reuse of existing telephony applications in a New World infrastructure and accelerates the innovation of services that span the voice and data worlds. More than 40 charter members of the Cisco Voice Applications Partner (VAP) program are delivering services on Cisco’s infrastructure today.
No. 550, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

NetCentric Supplies 1,000 Ports For GTE Network Expansion
NetCentric Corp. has announced that GTE Internetworking is expanding its IP fax network capacity by purchasing 1,000 additional ports of NetCentric FaxStorm technology. This is the single largest follow-on order from any NetCentric customer, and will enable GTE’s IP fax network to handle more than 10 million additional minutes of traffic per month. The expansion of GTE’s service, which was launched in January 1999, reflects the carrier’s emergence as a leading IP fax network provider.
No. 551, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Microcell First To Offer Saride.com’s Two-Way Wireless E-mail Service
Sarade.com has announced the availability of its first end-to-end wireless data service — two-way wireless e-mail. Microcell Solutions is the first carrier to offer this service to its subscribers. Branded as Fido E-mail, Sarade.com’s new service is included as part of a new enhanced services package called FidoPro. FidoPro will be available to Microcell’s Fido subscribers. Sarade.com will soon provide this service to wireless carriers worldwide.
No. 552, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

WinStar Launches New Internet Roaming Service
WinStar Communications has announced the launch of a global Internet roaming service that provides WinStar dial-up customers with worldwide access to the Internet via local connections in more than 140 countries. The new national and international roaming service provides secure, cost-effective access to the Internet or customer corporate intranets from more than 1,000 points of presence (POPs) worldwide. Global Internet roaming capability is the latest addition to WinStar’s integrated portfolio of Web-based services.
No. 553, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Clarent Announces Clarent ThroughPacket
Clarent Corp. has announced the development of Clarent ThroughPacket, a technology for reducing congestion in IP telephony networks. The ThroughPacket technology uses a unique IP multiplexing technique which transmits voice packets through a network using less bandwidth and causing less congestion when compared to standard IP voice transmissions. Clarent ThroughPacket dramatically reduces router delays and dropped packets when queues overflow. Clarent has had patents pending on this technology since May 1998.
No. 554, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

FaxNet Launches FaxMission 3.0
FaxNet Corp. has announced FaxMission 3.0, an easy-to-use fax application to send and receive faxes directly from a PC. FaxMission uses the Internet, the PSTN, and FaxNet’s telco-grade platform to provide a highly reliable and secure system for transmitting and receiving data. A new outbound feature in FaxMission 3.0 is the ability to send faxes from any e-mail client, including Web-based forms. Additional features include the ability to send to both fax and e-mail addresses in lists and receive results of broadcasts as comma delimited text files.
No. 555, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

ArelNet Adds Enhanced Services To i-Tone Voice/Fax IP Gateway Solution
ArelNet Ltd. has announced the addition of enhanced services and features to its popular i-Tone IP gateway gatekeeper solution with i-Tone Version 3.5. i-Tone Version 3.5 is an expanded IP telephony solution for IP voice and fax that supports various services on the same platform. The I-Tone 3.5 is designed for a wide range of communications service providers, and adds fully re-engineered gatekeeper and management software to provide improved performance, reliability, availability, and interoperability between functional components.
No. 556, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

visitalk.com Answers The Call For Internet Voice, Video, And Data Communications
visitalk.com has announced that its global communications ports were operational on June 1 when it launched the Internet’s first global switchboard and permanent directory for real-time PC-to-PC communications. visitalk.com’s communication portal enables users of voice, video, and data conferencing software programs like Microsoft’s NetMeeting and White Pine Software’s CU-SeeMe to call each other with the ease of placing a regular phone call. visitalk.com’s system is compatible with these and other industry standard H.323 software programs/clients like Intel’s Create & Share, Netscape’s Communicator, and IBM/Lotus’ Farsight.
No. 557, www.itmag.com/freeinfo

Internet Telephony Billing Software Providers

The following vendors provide Internet telephony billing software and solutions. While some of their products are proprietary, providing a solution for a vendor’s specific hardware platform, this list is a great place to start researching billing software in preparation to purchasing your own billing solution. After all, if you can’t bill your customers, how will you ever make any money?
– Greg Galitzine 
Belle Systems www.bellesystems.com
Biztrans www.biztrans.com
Comdial Corporation www.comdial.com
DMW Worldwide, LLC www.dmwworldwide.com
dynamicsoft www.dynamicsoft.com
Evolving Systems www.evolving.com
Franklin Telecom www.ftel.com
Galleon Distributed Technologies www.galleoninc.com
GRIC Communications, Inc. www.gric.com
Imagen Communications  www.imagen.net
Infozech www.infozech.com
Rodopi  www.rodopi.com
ISDN*tek www.isdntek.com
Kenan Systems
(a wholly-owned Lucent subsidiary)
Lucent Technologies www.lucent.com
MIND CTI  www.mindcti.com
Portal Software, Inc. www.portal.com
Siemens www.icn.siemens.com
Simplified www.simpletel.com
Solect Technology Group www.solect.com
SoltecOne  www.soltecone.com
Telco Research Corporation www.telcoresearch.com
Teleflex Systems, Inc. www.tele-flex.com
TeleKnowledge Group www.teleknowledge.com
Telephony Experts www.t-experts.com
Uni-X Software GmbH www.openinformer.com
Voiceware Systems www.voiceware.net

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