Bell Canada enters the VoIP fray

TORONTO — Bell Canada Monday debuted a managed IP telephony solution that comes just as the telecommunications industry is witnessing a slew of similar products entering the market.

Bell’s product, targeted at the enterprise

market, is the result of several months of collaboration with Nortel Networks to develop the latest IP telephony and multimedia applications and services.

Last September, Bell said it planned to invest $200 million over three years in Nortel technology to provide new services to its large enterprise customers and eventually its small and medium business clients.

“”It’s going to be a hot summer in telecom, and watch out for the Wild East, because I think what’s going to end up happening is we’ll probably hear…competitive offerings from Sprint and Allstream/MTS as well,”” said Roberta Fox, president and senior president of Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont.

Monday also saw Primus Telecommunications Canada introduce its TalkBroadband Internet phone service for small- and medium-sized businesses, which it said will save organizations between 25 per cent and 75 per cent over traditional phone service.

Isabelle Courville, president of Bell Canada’s enterprise group, said its new product was “”part of the plan to migrate enterprise customers to the IP platform.””

Courville said the managed IP telephony service will be available in July. Service in Ontario and Quebec is pending CRTC approval.

The new service offers applications that include point-to-point video, integration with e-mail, click-to-call, find-me-follow-me, instant messaging and the ability to use multi-media functions across the enterprise.

Moreover, she said, customers can make calls from anywhere, including the office, home, cell phone —— anywhere the Internet is available —— using the same connection. “”You can reach all the devices at the same time,”” said Courville, adding the new services differ from the telco’s previous ones because Bell now hosts the IP solution rather than installs it on the client’s premises.

At the moment, the IP telephony solution is being tested on several lines, 215 of which belong to Bell’s customers mainly in the public and financial sectors and 700 within Bell’s organization itself, explained Courville.

“”What we think is that 40 per cent of our current customer base (about 400) will have either bought or have a trial in progress between now and year-end.””

Based on results from Bell’s customer trials, Bell has seen between 15 per cent and 25 per cent savings on administrative tasks such as moving an employee from one office to another, Courville said.

“”You need legacy time to call somebody to do the transfer of the line. Now it’s all done by the employee itself, by just logging in to the phone and saying, ‘I’m here on that phone, and here’s my number.’ The phone is programmed every day by the employee coming in.””

Another benefit apparent from the trial is saving time reaching mobile workers in industries like real estate and retail, she said.

As to the competitive landscape, telecom analyst Fox compared Bell’s latest offering to Telus’s IP service released about a month ago, but cannot point out differences until she knows more details about pricing.

Fox said there’s been a flurry of developments lately in this technology because “”IP’s prime time now. They all want to make sure that the customers know this is a market space they’re going to play in, whether they’re residential, mid-market or enterprise.””

Moreover, she said, the telcos are pushing through their products with the hope of stimulating customer spending for these next-generation services.

Although Fox anticipated no problems for Bell to sign up customers in Ontario and Quebec, other parts of Canada may question moving from existing carriers to Bell.

However, IP infrastructure allows telcos to basically deliver these services anywhere as long as customers have high-speed Internet access, said Fox. “”I think the whole IP move is going to move everybody into competing outside of their core territories much faster.””

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