A new deal between communication solutions provider MTS Allstream and the country’s fifth-largest ISP, Persona Communications, should bring digital phone service further into the mainstream.

The $30 million deal will see Persona using MTS Allstream’s Network Resident IP Telephony (NRIPT) solution to offer their customers trouble-free digital phone service. In the crowded field of service providers, according to Persona’s director of business development Arthur Taylor, adding to the service roster is key. “It’s important to provide a full suite of services. We can take advantage of the newer technology on the market and provide this on our network with the same benefits (of home phone service).”

But why the backing of digital phone service when it comes with the troubling rep of echoes, delays, and static? Persona and MTS Allstream avoid these issues by using a dedicated data network. Instead of PC-based digital phone service done over the public Internet, the NRIPT solution is done through a private network.

“We’ll use a national multi-protocol data network, with voice and data service capabilities, which interconnects with the cable company’s own infrastructure,” said MTS Allstream’s Dave Ballantine, senior sales vice-president, wholesale and international carrier services. Persona will be leveraging its own existing dedicated coaxial fibre network, according to Taylor.

Since the infrastructure already exists, this solution should be cost-effective, but also will aid Persona in competing with the phone companies by providing cable, high-speed Internet, and phone service, said Ballantine.

“It’s a way of delivering prime line phone service to customers without having to construct that phone infrastructure-copper wire is buried and snakes around neighborhoods and to have to start from scratch now would come at an exorbitant price,” he said.

It can also be rolled out quickly-Persona is debuting this new offering in Ontario in the first quarter of 2007, and plans to eventually expand it cross-country. “We’ll be positioning it as service for most households, as it has the same services as the primary phone service that most customers already have had. We’re not just positioning it to tech-savvy customers,” said Taylor.

While there is no extreme cost reduction in switching to digital phone service via a cable company, said Ballantine, the bundling of services can benefit the customer. “You assume that people can always have their Internet, cable and phone bundled, but that’s usually in the core cities, and is not always the case in semi-rural and rural areas,” Ballantine said. “It’s truly competitive now, and people have choice.” Customers can also benefit from doubling up on installation-the technicians only need to install a cable telephony modem, which powers both the Internet and the digital phone service.

This set-up has worked for MTS Allstream’s customers so far-Persona will be the third company, after Hamilton’s Mountain Cablevision and Access Communications in Regina, to implement the NRIPT technology in the last couple of years. Said Ballantine: “Mountain Cablevision had significant growth after the launch (of NRIPT). They branded it as their service and secured new customers and retained old ones.”

With Mountain Cablevision, it was somewhat of a do-or-die situation-a trend that their director of business operations and development, Pat Kiely, sees no sign of stopping. “As a small to medium-sized family-owned business, we came to the conclusion that we had to get into telephone service because there is a tremendous convergence of services these days-other people were looking to our broadband and video services and to take our piece of the pie, so we needed to add some telecommunications applications that could ride credibly on our network and voice was one of these.”

He, like Persona, benefited from being spared the building of traditionally necessary telephony infrastructure, courtesy of MTS Allstream’s dedicated network, and is confident that many more cable companies will be jumping on the digital phone service bandwagon-if they haven’t already. “It’s critical to our survival-with the way video, voice, and data are all coming together, and the number of competing companies are going, if you’re missing any of the pieces, you’re missing out. People do bundle,” said Kiely.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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