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In the CEO Spotlight section in Internet Telephony magazine, we recognize the outstanding work performed by exemplary companies. Each month we bring you the opinions of the heads of companies leading the Internet telephony industry now and helping to shape the future of the industry. This month, we spoke with Robert Mimeault, CEO of Versatel Networks.


GG: What is Versatels Mission?

RM: Our mission is very clear, to be the leading supplier of value added services platforms that offer personalized voice services for legacy and next generation networks. We enable carriers to offer differentiated and personalized telephony services to their customers. With the decline in long-distance margins and local services, providers need the tools to create unique offerings that people will pay for. In addition, most service providers cant afford to throw out their legacy equipment and replace it with a pure next-generation architecture. Our products extend legacy equipment and give it new life, providing an excellent migration strategy for carriers of all sizes. As an example, any traditional TDM carrier can take our equipment, install it adjacent to their legacy equipment and use VoIP to terminate their long-distance traffic. This alone is a compelling reason to use our technology, but thats only a start. Without adding any new hardware, our customers can offer a unique service like CallPods to their customers. CallPods is a party line for a group of people. You can set up the service from your computer by providing a list of phone numbers. Maybe they are your childrens cell phones, maybe its the list of people in a volunteer fire department. When you call the number, every phone on the list rings, and when they are answered they are placed into a conference. Imagine how easy it will be to find your family when they have scattered about the shopping mall or for a Sunday night family call. CallPods is just one example. Service providers of tomorrow can develop more of these value added services easily on our platform, creating differentiation that will ensure their success.

GG: What is your vision for Versatel, and how is the company positioned in the next generation telecom market?

RM: To drive the implementation of specialized hardware for signaling, media manipulation, and call control into software, which enables rapid prototyping and deployment of new services on a one-to-one basis using industry standard open components. Nearly all telephony services require some sort of media processing, such as voice mixing, prompt playing, or DTMF digit detection. Our products are optimized to provide cost-effective hardware support for these sorts of applications. Our ability to deliver these applications provisioned to a single customer makes new service delivery cost-effective. As more applications are written for our platform, the value proposition for our customers will become even stronger. This positions us well to be at the heart of what drives the next generation telecom market: new revenue streams from new service offerings.

GG: Now that it appears that growth and opportunity are the trends in the VoIP industry, what possible hurdles do you see that might upset this momentum?

RM: We think that there is a strong correlation between the size of an organization and its ability to innovate. Our market is a perfect example of this most of the innovation has come from the smaller service providers and vendors. This innovation fuels the growth and opportunity we are enjoying. If, through market consolidation, smaller players start to disappear, Im afraid that the current pace of innovation will suffer. This cant help but reduce momentum in the market. As an example, directly from our market, look at the pace of innovation before and after telecom deregulation. After deregulation, many smaller companies entered the market, radically increasing the amount of innovation.

GG: What are some of the technology areas where Versatel is increasingly focusing, and why are these areas important to the future of your company?

RM: We are focusing in two areas right now: scalability and applications. Our customers have real concerns regarding both ends of scalability. They need a cost effective, yet full featured, starter system. For many, this is a new business area, and they have a reasonable caution surrounding large capital purchases. We have an excellent starter system, but we think we can provide an even lower cost option. Once these customers begin to grow, they need a system that will scale upwards cost effectively. We already handle four thousand subscribers in a single chassis (and you can chain them together). Were going to support tens of thousands of subscribers in a single chassis, giving our customers plenty of room to grow. We think this was a major issue in computer telephony integration in the nineties. Developers with Dialogic cards created incredible applications, but couldnt scale them for true carrier deployments.

GG: Describe you view of the future of the IP Telephony industry.

RM: Our feeling is that the essence of the Internet is democratization. IP telephony wont be any different. IP Telephony allows even the smallest company to offer something unique to the marketplace. Thats the future of IP Telephony. IT

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