‘SIP-ifying’ the PSTN

As service providers struggle to shore up declining voice revenues with new data services, one company says it has the goods to make the endeavour less difficult for carriers.

NewStep Networks Inc., formerly known as Rev D Networks Inc., in October introduced the Calling Service Node (CSN), software that lets telcos use their installed network infrastructure to support advanced communications offerings.

The CSN uses smart signalling to connect people across the PSTN in novel ways. For example, a user could set up audio conferences, video sessions and share documents easily; seamlessly connect wireline and wireless devices; and bring voice and data applications closer together.

According to Neil Baimel, NewStep’s CEO, the CSN’s purpose is two-fold: it lets carriers offer new services on existing equipment; and the “sticky” service bundles it supports generate revenue, so carriers can fund future projects, particularly a transition from traditional PSTN underpinnings to voice-over-broadband gear.

“There was a misperception in the market at one point that voice would help fund this new infrastructure,” Baimel said during an interview at NewStep’s office. “It can’t….The voice revenues are falling too precipitously to do that funding. Our whole business case is to help fund the transition with service bundles.”

The CSN runs on Sun Microsystems Inc. servers. It captures calls at the signalling level to bring about advanced services, sending information across the network via “feature control points” – software that tells switches what to do. It also provides what NewStep calls “CommVites” – software that matches a caller to a policy database, which dictate how the user wants to connect with others. NewStep reps said this provides rich connections, such as video calls and instant messaging-enhanced voice calls.

“One of the service providers we’ve been in discussion with said, ‘Ah ha, now I understand. You SIP-ify the old network,'” said Cliff Grossner, NewStep’s director of marketing. “‘You provide the same flexible call control of the new network and make it available in the old network as well.'”

NewStep, founded this year, comes from a Bell Canada network efficiency project. The telco was having trouble with some of its large contact centre clients tying up trunks when transferring callers from agent to agent.

For example, a caller in Toronto might dial the contact centre, talk to an agent in Vancouver, only to be transferred to another agent in Mississauga, Ont. The call would occupy a long-distance line from Toronto to Vancouver, and another long-distance connection from Vancouver to Mississauga, even though the caller and the agent shared a local service area.

It’s known as “tromboning.” Bell couldn’t purchase a proper solution for it.

“When you can’t get what you want, you build it,” said Lloyd Williams, NewStep’s chief engineer. He created the CSN while working for Bell.

Now Bell’s CSN-based network transfer service for contact centres dynamically tears down connections as new ones are set up, mitigating tromboning. According to Clayton Mangione, director of Bell’s voice technology development group in Ottawa, the CSN spells efficiencies for the carrier and its clients.

Grossner said Bell spun off NewStep to foster the CSN’s development. “The amount (of money) required to take it to a level where they could really exploit it was much bigger than they could justify.”

Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corp., a telecom consultancy in Voorhees, N.J. that counts NewStep as a client. He said this start-up is unique in that it already has a major customer, Bell. However, NewStep also faces two perils in its quest for success: the challenge of spreading the gospel, and getting service providers to believe.

“There are going to be carriers concerned about making a commitment to a start-up company. [NewStep] may have to find some big brother partners for the various geographies to operate in, at least outside of Canada, where the reference from Bell would be less valuable.”

Baimel said NewStep would focus on the home market first.

“We’re in trial with some service providers and certainly in discussions with other service providers in North America….We’re also talking to much larger companies that we can partner with, where our technology combines well with theirs.”

For more information about NewStep, visit www.newstepnetworks.com.