Optus launches new business VoIP service

SingTel Optus Pty. Ltd. has announced a new scalable voice over IP (VoIP) solution to converge voice and data communications onto a single network to extend the reach of VoIP services into the small to medium business market.

Until recently there was little demand for a complete VoIP solution, Christophe Bur, director of products for Optus business said.

“The demand was for traditional IP (such as IP-PBX phones) which could be used to deliver communications within the company.” These sorts of IP solutions offer simple functionality and have “limited use for other value-added applications, such as unified messaging”, Bur said.

The new Optus IP Centrex system allows the company’s internal IP network to be integrated with the public telephony network (PSTN) to allow access to telephony services across the same network both internally and externally. Optus would then host the service.

Although there are several VoIP offerings currently available, Bur said the closest true IP solution expected in the market will be Telstra’s business VoIP solution, scheduled for release in December 2004.

“Connect’s solution is the closest product in the market, (but it is) not based on a single platform for all users,” he said.

Additionally, Optus’s IP Centrex solution offers the economic benefits of a full-scale outsourcing arrangement, he said.

The IP Centrex system will be accessible through a Web-based administration tool, which gives end users access to telephony features, such as routing of incoming calls. For example, users can opt to have their voice-mail messages redirected to their e-mail inbox as sound attachments, Bur said.

Users can also log on to the telephone network at a new desk, office or at home by logging into the IP Centrex system via the Web interface, Bur said.

Companies need not change from analog handsets to IP-based phones in order to utilize the service. The system can also be bundled with multimedia features such as videoconferencing, document sharing and unified messaging.

The Optus IP Centrex service is based on Nortel Networks’s new core packaging technology, deployed in various VoIP solutions by telcos worldwide.

The system will be available as a commercial service in April 2004. In the meantime, external trials with select Optus customers will take place from mid-December this year until the scheduled launch date, Bur said.

Optus will offer a “packaged” version of the technology with service support and usage costs (minutes included), Bur said, adding that the technology itself is scalable, allowing Optus to tailor the service to the needs of small to very large organizations cost-effectively.

“The technology is entirely centralized. We can use this solution for as little as one line to up to 10,000 lines.” Voice services delivered over the IP Centrex solution will be backed by the same standardized guarantees required for traditional analog phone services (around 99.75 per cent). Optus will support the service with a data network and fault tolerance guarantee of 99.9 per cent reliability, Bur said.