Avaya, Skype to offer low-cost calling
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – Skype Ltd. will offer offer Skype Connect to Avaya Inc. customers in the U.S. to help them lower international voice-calling costs through IP-based calls.

In a deal announced Wednesday, Avaya and Skype also said they plan to deliver a wider range of communications and collaboration capabilities for large businesses, helping Avaya end users and Skype users connect with presence technology, instant messaging, voice and videoconferencing. The companies said such a service would be an efficient way for a company call center to resolve customer service inquiries. These services would be offered in the second phase of the agreement, beginning in the last half of 2011.

Alan Baratz, senior vice-president of Avaya, said the agreement will offer customers a common user experience. Skype’s David Gurle, general manager of Skype for Business, said the partnership will help expand Skype Connect’s footprint into more large U.S. businesses.

It isn’t clear when the capabilities will be available to Canadians. According to an Avaya official, Skype Connect is only offered in the U.S. A press spokesman for Skype said in an e-mail, “We don’t have plans to make it available in other countries at this time.”

The first phase will bring Skype calling to IP-based enterprise communications systems running Avaya gear. A Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) channel will be set up between customers with Avaya Aura Session Manager or SIP Enablement Server, CS 1000, IP Office or BCM systems. Those Avaya customers will use Skype Connect to make international calls at lower cost, while getting enterprise-level security features in the Avaya systems.

Skype users globally will be able to make inbound calls to Avaya customers in the U.S. market for free or at low cost, and the Avaya gear will add a variety of features for collaboration. A business, for example, could add a Skype Click & Call button to its Web site for a customer to make a call to a customer care center.

Small- and medium-size business customers already using Avaya IP Office should be “very excited about getting access to Skype,” said Steve Hilton, an analyst at Analysys Mason. “It will help them save money on international calling and get access to Webcam-style video communications integrated with their Avaya phone systems.”

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said the partnership should enhance the value of the coming Avaya Desktop Video Device and its Flare user interface. “This partnership would open up Skype presence information and voice over IP to be displayed and used by the Flare tablet,” he said.

Avaya will also gain greater credibility as an IP switching vendor with the Skype agreement, Kerravala said. “With Cisco (Systems Inc.) having such a huge palette of unified communications [systems], Avaya can gain credibility through its partnerships,” he said.

(With files by Howard Solomon, Network World Canada)

(From Computerworld U.S.)

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