article

What’s Worth Watching?


If you don’t pay careful attention
, things can slip by you. This is especially true of pets, children and innovation. To test your attention span and take a break from telecom’s tedious twins of regulation and consolidation, PHONE+’s editors have compiled a “what, when, why, who” list of some of the cool opportunities and enablers for alternate distribution channels as well as some of the stand-out companies in each classification. While certainly not a definitive list, this represents some of the creative solutions for the emerging challenges of today’s converging competitive communications environment.

No doubt you’ll agree with some of our selections and not others. If you’ve got a bone to pick with this list, please drop us a line. Thoughtful - and non-self-promotional - reader suggestions will be posted online at www.phoneplusmag.com.

P2P VOIP

The idea that a phone network could operate with the intelligence at the endpoints rather than in a central switch is hard to accept. In fact, there are business phone systems and consumer VoIP services that operate successfully following these principles.

While traditional networks are not going away anytime soon, this new architecture should not be underestimated as a force shaping the future of telephony. Telcos and their channels should take a cue from the music industry and its run-ins with P2P technology. For its users, it’s as much a philosophy or culture as it is a way of communicating - a fact that will fuel its continued survival.

Best of Breed:

Skype Technologies S.A. comes from the makers of KaZaA and is a consumer P2P calling service with 29 million registered users. Its PSTN termination product, SkypeOut, has 1 million users. www.skype.com

Aastra Technologies Ltd.’s new VentureIP 480i phone, sold in threes at $379 each, provides a range of PBX functions for small businesses. A VentureIP gateway, priced at $289, provides connection to the PSTN. www.aastra.com

Popular Telephony Inc. has created Peerio, IP telephony middleware that enables serverless and switchless communications systems. www.populartelephony.com

IP CONTACT CENTERS

While the ASP model suffered a false start, it is reemerging with vigor in the customer relationship management segment, offering enterprises, large and small, a contact center utility on an outsourced basis. Web-based contact interaction/call center solutions are offered on a monthly cost-per-seat basis and generally include callhandling features, such as universal queuing, skills-based routing, synchronized screen delivery, CRM integrations, email response, Web-chat and Web callbacks. ASPs are offering white-label and commissioned opportunities to rebillers and partners.

Best of Breed:

UCN has combined advanced contact center features with its national IP network for inContact, which it sells through channel partners. www.ucn.net

Cosmocom offers a white-label program for telcos, Contact Center on Demand, and for integrators, Contact Center in a Box. www.cosmocom.com

Optivon Inc. goes one step beyond with its hosted Advanced Call Management system, which adds on-demand professional operators for reception, customer service, order-taking and service dispatch. www.optivon.com

OPEN-SOURCE VOIP

Open software systems create new opportunities for integrators and resellers to design and implement custom phone systems for both service providers and enterprises. While not quite the phone-systems-in-a-box they are described to be, the free software packages are becoming more stable and refined by the day. They require some expertise, but open new doors for the integrator who takes the time to learn the software.

Best of Breed:

IP PBX is the star of the new open-source movement, with the best-known system being Asterisk. www.asterisk.org

Pingtel Corp. company offers an enterprise version of its open-source SIPxchange using a yearly subscription model that includes support and documentation. www.pingtel.com

VOIP APPLIANCES

Businesses want to migrate sensibly toward VoIP. New gateways and appliances enable solutions providers to ease the transition for their customers without the need to “rip and replace” installed TDM systems.

Best of Breed:

net.com’s new SHOUT VoIP Migration Appliance (VMA) allows companies to keep and continue using most of their existing equipment, reduces bandwidth requirements, offers a security solution and permits number portability with easy-to-use programming features. www.net.com

SAVVIS offers a migration gateway from Access Line as phase one of its new EnterpriseConnect VoIP managed service for sale through channel partners. www.savvis.net

Alpha Telecom Inc.’s Arion family of VoIP gateways migrates legacy telephones into either a softswitch platform or a network-gateway/centraloffice switch. www.alpha-tele.com

POWERLINE COMMUNICATIONS

With powerline communications technology, solutions providers can turn a building’s stranded asset - the electrical system - into a third wire for LAN and building control and security functions as well as revenue-generating applications like voice, IPTV, wireline/wireless Internet services that can be sold to tenants.

Best of Breed:

Telkonet Inc.’s PlugPlus commercial powerline LAN communications system give its value-added resellers low-cost entrance into the telephone business serving multitenant offices and apartments. www.telkonet.com

MOBILE VIRTUAL NETWORK ENABLERS

The market for mobile virtual network operators will reach $10.7 billion in service revenue by 2010, according to May 2005 numbers from Yankee Group. To help realize this potential, mobile virtual network enablers are emerging with back-office services - both turnkey and a la carte - for billing, handset fulfillment, SMS, content and more.

Best of Breed:

EUR Systems’ MVNGO services, rolled out in early 2005, build on the company’s long history of providing OSS/BSS to MVNOs with the addition of prepayment, handset acquisition, carrier relations and content management. www.mvngo.com

Comverse is taking on the delivery of personalized content, applications and billing for MVNOs with its new MVNO solutions suite. www.comverse.com

An early entrant into the space, Visage Mobile’s configurable platform allows companies to create a wireless branded service while retaining control over the customer experience. www.visagemobile.com

VIRTUAL PEERING FABRICS

Neutral colocation providers are quickly advancing the concept of virtual peering within metros and between metros. Peering fabrics are established between interconnection points, enabling carriers to connect once to the fabric and peer with other carriers also on the fabric but not necessarily in the same facility.

Best of Breed:

Switch and Data operates the MetroPAIX Layer 2 public peering fabric in the San Francisco Bay area. With its acquisition of Layer One, it also offers metro-to-metro virtual peering between Los Angeles and Dallas, Dallas and New York, and Dallas and Miami. www.switchanddata.com

Equinix Inc. GigE Exchange peering service presents an interconnection fabric between 111 Eighth Ave. and its Newark, N.J., Internet Business Exchange (IBX) centers. www.equinix.com

Stealth Communications Inc. extends the concept to include voice traffic with the Voice Peering Fabric, a closed Layer 2 network that now boasts more than 70 members. www.thevpf.com

Interoute is taking the concept international with its Virtual Voice Network, which spans the Altantic. www.interoute.com

VOIP PEERING

As delivery of VoIP services becomes more attractive to carriers, they accordingly are looking to migrate their carrierto- carrier connections. A slew of offers are on the table to effect these arrangements.

Best of Breed:

telx Group Inc. and Stealth Communications operate the Voice Peering Fabric a distributed Layer 2 Ethernet Exchange for exchanging VoIP traffic. www.thevpf.com.

InfiniRoute Networks Inc. delivers a carrier-neutral interconnection service that integrates and manages voice and IP routing for wired, wireless and emerging carriers. www.infiniroute.com

Switch and Data now operates LayerOne’s VoIP peering platform. Participants can buy, sell or trade IP minutes with other providers within the peering fabric. www.switchanddata.com

PSTN GATEWAYS

Regional and national CLECs are targeting infrastructure-light VoIP providers with PSTN gateway services that typically include call origination, termination, local access numbers, LNP, E911 and DA. Most importantly, many CLECs are enabling local access in multiple rate centers through one connection to a local PoP, speeding time-to-market and lowering operating costs for their resellers.

Best of Breed:

XO Communications Inc. pairs VoIP termination with its multimarket inbound service to allow a single connection - TDM or SIP - to the XO network with access to inbound dialing at 81 gateways. www.xo.com

Broadwing Communications Inc.’s PRIorityConnect SIP adds a SIP option to reach the company’s footprint through a single connection. www.broadwing.com Pac-West Telecomm Inc. VoiceSource combines its PSTN On Ramp, Network Database Services (NDS) and Web portal. www.pacwest.com

Stealth Communications Inc. is hinting at rolling out an exchange for PSTN database services. No official announcement had been made at press time. www.stealth.net

EXCHANGES

Exchanges have had a bit of a bad rep when most of the early entrants failed, but their usefulness in providing efficient multisource networks is proving out and being extended beyond voice minutes, to data services, local services and even mobile services. The platforms may even evolve to one day include content and support for other database services such as roaming and portability.

Best of Breed:

Arbinet Inc. operates one of the oldest telecom exchanges and now comes in flavors supporting voice, data and mobile traffic. www.thexchange.com

Interoute just launched a commission-free exchange to boost traffic on its Virtual Voice Networks. www.interoute.com

Last-Mile Connections Inc. this year automated access to its stable of members providing last-mile connectivity in seven metro areas. www.lastmileconnections.com

VOICE OVER WI-FI

VoIP and Wi-Fi are combining to become a major powerhouse in converged communications for both WLAN systems and in tandem with cellular for WAN service. In fact, dual-mode mobile phones are likely to exceed 100 million in service by the end of the decade, according to May 2005 figures from ABI Research Inc.

Best of Breed:

A pioneer in the VoWi-Fi space, SpectraLink’s NetLink Wireless Telephone portfolio operates as client devices on Wi-Fi networks and integrate with leading PBX systems. www.spectralink.com

The triumvirate of Motorola, Avaya Inc. and Proxim Inc. have created a VoWi-Fi system that incorporates dual-mode phones. www.motorola.com, www.avaya.com, www.proxim.com

ClearOne takes the VoWi-Fi concept to the conferencing arena with Max Wireless, a Wi-Fi appliance that makes any room a conference room. www.clearone.com

WI-FI CLEARINGHOUSES

Ubiquity being the key to the success of Wi-Fi as a remote access mechanism, there have been many solutions tendered to link disparate hotspots and hotzones and to make it easier for smaller providers to offer subscribers a broader footprint by virtue of membership in a roaming clearinghouse.

Best of Breed:

VeriSign Inc.’s Wireless IP Connect service offers VoIP and Wi-Fi roaming services, authentication, security and intercarrier settlement. www.verisign.com

OSS provider Airpath Wireless Inc.’s InterRoam links Wi-Fi operators with their trading partners and the Airpath Provider Alliance, which includes 600 providers operating more than 3,500 hotspots in more than 23 countries. www.airpath.com - Syniverse Technologies and Wi-Fi network operator PurDigital Media Inc. launched FastPass, a Wi-Fi roaming platform linking municipal and corporate Wi-Fi networks under one neutral host authentication platform. www.syniverse.com

Billing Concepts Inc.’s eZ-Wi, service enables these independent and small ISPs to offer roaming on hotspots and alternate wireless Internet carriers in an effort to “democratize the marketplace.” www.billingconcepts.com

CONSORTIA

Combining buying or selling power is common to most industries and it is taking on significance among geographically dispersed providers seeking to knit together solutions for its customers and/or other wholesale providers. It’s simple, really: The sum is greater than its parts.

Best of Breed:

INDATELgroup is an alliance of independent rural telcos and cooperatives that nationally market its members’ individual networks. www.indatel.org

Established in 2003, the SkyWeb Alliance is a network of fixed-wireless broadband providers in California that have joined forces to expand coverage areas. www.skyweballiance.com

Eight utility companies have formed a marketing affiliation called the Utelco Alliance to raise their profiles among potential carrier and enterprise customers. www.utelcos.com

WIMAX

WiMAX is likely to become the third-most widely used highspeed Internet access technology following DSL and cable modem. By 2009, In-Stat forecasts 3 percent of total broadband subscribers, or 8.5 million subscribers worldwide, will be using WiMAX-based broadband wireless access services. Nearly 4.5 million of these wireless broadband subscribers will also subscribe to Voice over WiMAX (VoWiMAX) services. With the expected appearance later this year of WiMAX-certified products built to the 802.16 standard, vendors are turning to channel partners to meet the market need.

Best of Breed:

Industry pioneer Alvarion Inc. makes the BreezeMAX BWA system, which sells through distributors, regional integrators and VARs. www.alvarion.com

Proxim Corp. offers a VAR program that will be extended to include its WiMAX-certified products. www.proxim.com

WISP Towerstream, which provides mobile VoIP over Wi-Fi networks, plans to support WiMAX later this year - a service it will offer through channels. www.towerstream.com

AGGREGATORS

Stitching together a national offering is a time-consuming effort. Wholesalers have come to the rescue with a single point of contact for configurations involving cross-network circuits and last-mile access.

Best of Breed:

New Edge Networks Inc. integrates with its own nationwide network a variety of last-mile broadband access services from multiple carriers, technologies and geographies for carriers and corporations. www.newedgenetworks.com

MegaPath Networks Inc. offers managed access, VPN and security services crossing multiple network providers through resellers and agents. www.megapath.net

Global Internetworking provides facilities-neutral connectivity and wide area network solutions to carriers, service providers, government agencies, systems integrators and large enterprises. www.globalinternetworking.com

IP VIDEO

IP video technology is becoming more common for enterprise communications and surveillance applications. Offers range from desktop systems to standalone videophones.

Best of Breed:

8×8’s Packet8 VideoPhone delivers video and audio over any broadband connection to residential and business customers for just $19.95 per month and $99 for the phone. www.8×8.com

Viseon Inc. enables VoIP carriers to offer multimedia content to subscribers using the VisiFone MM videophone. www.viseon.com

Inter-Tel’s new Web Conferencing delivers one-click Web and multipoint video conferencing, application, file and document sharing, chat and remote control. www.inter-tel.com

MANAGED VOIP

Today’s customers see the value of the simplified converged network but also may lack the capabilities to manage the applications that run over it. Carriers and partner solutions providers are in a terrific position to take on this task with remotely managed services.

Best of Breed:

Broadvox - Broadvox provides private-labeled hosted PBX or Centrex replacement services as well as VoIP termination and local origination services for businesses. www.broadvox.net

Covad Communications Inc. offers a range of managed VoIP service, a managed premise-based solution and a virtual hosted PBX for sale through partners. www.covad.com

PointOne Communications Inc.’s StarPoint IP Business is a hosted IP solution for enterprises that runs over PointOne’s all-IP network. www.pointone.com

New Global Telecom Inc. offers 6DegreesIP for service providers looking for quick entry into the VoIP marketplace. www.ngt.com

SWITCH PARTITIONING

Making the investment in a switch, even a softswitch, can strand capex for growing companies. Several companies are offering success-based strategies for VoIP and TDM providers by offering switching capabilities by the port.

General Telecom’s IPartition includes IP switching, IPto- IP call control and routing. www.gentel.net

Arbinet’s SoftSwitchAxccess gives carriers softswitch access plus a management system for changing the routing, accessing call detail records, and rating and billing services. www.arbinet.com

Interoute Virtual Voice Network, a full switchpartitioning service with a reporting piece that includes dial plans, route labels and routing groups. www.interoute.com

MANAGED SECURITY

With threats to corporate networks becoming more sophisticated, many companies- typical security approach - installing firewalls and running antivirus software on its PCs - is proving a shaky defense. A new need for an approach to security that goes beyond the network borders is creating a strong managed services play for service providers and resellers.

Best of Breed:

SAVVIS Communications offers a portfolio of managed security services, including dedicated services and on-demand services for sale through partners. www.savvis.net

ClearPath Networks Inc. offers a unique SNAP VPN appliance-based managed security service distributed through VARs to small businesses. www.clearpathnet.com

NTT/Verio Inc., through a joint venture with ISS, offers IntelliSecurity Managed Solutions through its viaVerio partner program. www.verio.com

IP PBXS

The IP PBX market is hot, experiencing 50 percent-plus growth between 2003 and 2004, according to data from Infonetics Research published in March. Successful vendors are recognizing the shifts in the market and have moved their products from TDM into the IP realm.

Best of Breed:

Inter-Tel’s new 5000 Network Communications Solutions are targeted to small and medium businesses. www.inter-tel.com

3Com’s NBX for small business and its VCX module for large enterprises fall under the 3Com Convergence Applications Suite featuring IP telephony, messaging, conferencing and contact center. www.3com.com/voip

Toshiba Digital Solutions Division’s first native IP telephony system, Toshiba Strata CIX, can be TDM-enabled and provides a smooth migration path. www.toshiba.com

SOFTPHONES

PC-based IP calling is not just for geeks anymore. Business executives are adopting the service for economical calling while on the road. The best of the systems emulate business system functionality and then some.

Best of Breed:

i2Telecom Inc’s foray into the softphone arena comes with a cool USB-compatible VoiceStick, so users can carry their phone numbers and phonebooks wherever they go. www.i2telecom.com

Toshiba’s SoftIPT softphone extends the functionality of Toshiba’s desktop telephones to laptops and PCs. www.toshiba.com/taistsd

IPcelerate’s MyNORA software client provides IP voice and video, instant messaging, conferencing and enhanced messaging. www.ipcelerate.com


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