Z-Tel to Roll Out VoIP

Z-Tel Communications Inc. (Booth 529) has announced plans for a VoIP rollout via direct and wholesale channels.

The initial offering, officially launched here at the CompTel/ASCENT Alliance Spring 2004 Convention & Expo, bundles integrated video, packet voice and data service with a shared broadband connection, for a dynamic bandwidth allocation of 1.5 megabytes. Wholesale partners also can wrap in Z-Tel’s call logic, managed services, unified messaging and enhanced services like the Personal Voice Assistant, to create personalized digital communications.

"Customers want integrated communications delivered via as few service providers as possible," says Gregg Smith, Z-Tel’s president and CEO. "Z-Tel’s unique capabilities allow us to capitalize on that need by bringing resellers a solution to bring local and long distance, high speed broadband access, enhanced voice recognition service offerings and low-cost alternatives together into one offering for businesses."

The company says it plans to launch VoIP packages for small and midsized business and multiple dwelling residential buildings and offices in the second quarter of this year. It also is working with developers and cablecos to explore the possibilities of deploying over fiber to the home for a residential service, and VoIP over cable for multi-tenant units.

Z-Tel says it has spent close to six years fleshing out its back office for service, support and provisioning, and launching local service nationwide based on the UNE-P model.

"This was a natural next step," says Rob Curtis, Z-Tel’s head of strategic planning. "We have a sophisticated back office, and layering the physical network was easier than [building out the OSS]."

Z-Tel has received the Cisco Systems Inc. service provider partner designation, and will use the Cisco BTS 10200 softswitch as a central office replacement to offer CLASS 4/5 services. Outside this in-house local access network the company has partnered with various IXCs for transport and termination, Curtis says.

"We think packet telephony brings great economic benefits," says Curtis. "We don’t look at it as a short-term regulatory arbitrage or cheaper cost to market. Packet compression is simply a more efficient use of the last-mile access pipe, and provides a structural cost advantage over the legacy network. You’re no longer dependent on the switch manufacturers like Nortel and Lucent."

Users reap rewards as well, making it an attractive option for businesses, he adds. A standard T1 has a fixed number of channels, while a packet data and voice bundle allows dynamic allocation of resources as needed — and the ability to support more users with the same amount of bandwidth.

"A customer gets more usable bandwidth for his money and it reduced the idle time for the facilities," says Curtis.

The Cisco relationship will allow Z-Tel to joint-market its VoIP service with the vendor, who has officially endorsed the service provider’s strategy and mission.

"We have a very exciting year ahead," says Sarah Bohne, Z-Tel’s director of investor relations.

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