Telus Monday introduced a managed voice-over IP service that some analysts say may give the carrier a first-to-market appeal.

Called IP-One, the service launched first in Quebec and Ontario and is available over Telus’ Next

Generation Network (NGN). It will, according to the company, handle call routing and integrate voice-mail, e-mail and data via a Web portal.

“”I think Telus has very much raised the bar,”” said Elroy Jopling, telco analyst with the Gartner Group in Toronto. “”In essence, this is outsourcing to Telus, so your customer premise equipment is any IP phones that you have and a router that is basically owned by Telus.””

Telus’ president of client solutions, Joe Natale, said during a conference call that “”all you need is a properly designed and properly implemented local-area network. Telus takes responsibility for managing the complexity . . . the special software . . . the upgrades of that software.””

Natale explained that conference calls can be set up by dragging icons into a “”meet me”” window and users can archive or forward their calls using the portal.

The product has been in development for about two and a half years, and was achieved with co-operation from Cisco Systems Canada. Telus’ chief customer strategist, Girish Pathak, likened the service to an affordable race car. “”Make no mistake, many more applications are in the innovation pipeline and this is first of the many cars that you would imagine every market needs,”” he said.

Borland Canada has been using IP-One for several months, said company president and general manager Christopher Corey. Borland made the selection after considering competitive options and upgrades to its old private branch exchange (PBX) system.

“”The reality is, we have some very serious business drivers that forced our choice of this solution,”” said Corey. “”We were looking for an environment that was easy to use, that my staff could easily adopt, that would give us a number of flexible options in terms of supporting (our) distributed sales environment.””

He added that VoIP is an effective means to stay in touch with customers, since they don’t always have the patience to spend effort tracking down contact numbers.

Enterprise-size customers may be interested in managed telephony services over time, said Roberta Fox, president of Fox Group Consulting in Toronto, but a more immediate target for Telus may be further down market.

She said that small and medium-sized businesses may look to a hosted solution to replace Centrex phone systems. SMEs would also appreciate the simplicity of portal-managed features like conference calling, but, she said, “”the challenge will be how to sell and market to that sector.””

Telus may have the upper hand by launching a managed service first, but both Fox and Jopling expect similar announcements from other major Canadian carriers before long. Bell has already launched a data back-up service.

“”They all seem to be announcing new managed service offerings. . . . I think they’re looking at this kind of thing as their new revenue source,”” said Fox.


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