Supercomm: Tie-up on future IP services

AT&T is promising a host of new collaboration services based on a five-year agreement it announced on Monday with Microsoft at Supercomm 2005 in Chicago.

Based on the deal AT&T will deploy Microsoft’s Connected Services Framework (CSF) designed to allow service providers to aggregate, provision and manage converged services.

“We’re integrating CSF with our service oriented platform. It will interoperate with our VoIP control layer as well as with our [operation support systems]. This will revolutionize the way next-generation IP collaboration services are developed and delivered,” says Eric Shepcaro, vice president of strategy and business development at AT&T.

Shepcaro says with the Microsoft platform AT&T will be able to offer “right-time” communication between applications and a multitude of devices on AT&T’s IP network, which spans 149 countries. He says this will include integrating real-time audio applications as well as applications such as presence and directory services with its network. Applications will become network-aware and deliver content to “end users on the right devices, in the right format, at the right time,” he says.

Both companies are also developing services for AT&T, which will include Webcast, Web conferencing, integrated VoIP, presence and messaging services, says Chris Molky, director of services over IP at AT&T.

Today AT&T does already offer some of these services, but the carrier says the difference will be in how these services can be used. “Rather than opening up a Web page and putting in your logon and password to upload a document for a Web conference, users will be able to right click on a word document and pull people into a Webcasting session,” Molky says. Users will have the option of setting up a one-way or bidirectional conference with others that they can easily see are available to participate, he says.

Word documents are static for most users today, but what AT&T is promising is an interactive platform where, through a portal, users will be able to see the author’s name, where he is, if he’s available and his preferred means of communications such as instant messaging or voice.

The carrier says its first set of services will be around collaboration tools and are scheduled for availability in early 2006. Microsoft’s CSF is a server-based package that uses service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web service interfaces. The platform works with Microsoft’s BizTalk, SQL and Windows servers.

The software giant announced CSF in February. Bell Canada, BT and Celcom Malaysia are also deploying the platform.

While Microsoft is working with multiple service providers, Shepcaro says that AT&T is the only carrier in North America that will sit on Microsoft’s CSF board, which will set the direction for Microsoft’s CSF product.

And also, Microsoft is developing a VoIP adapter API that will give customers and third parties the ability to build applications for AT&T’s network. Shepcaro says the API development is unique to AT&T’s deal with Microsoft.

Shepcaro also says that AT&T plans to integrate its recently announced network-based VoIP service called Voice Dynamic Network Application (DNA) with its CSF platform.