Telus Corp. this week unveiled IP-One, a hosted, packet-based, voice-data service for the enterprise. The firm said it’s the first out of the blocks with such a product.
IP-One combines voice and data functionality, and offers it as a hosted solution – all of the switches and routers required to run the service reside with Telus. It allows users to control which calls go where, time-of-day prioritization, call routing (“find me”), easy call-conference creation capabilities, a Web portal so users can listen to voice mail messages on their PCs, and, as voice mail messages are transformed into data files, an archiving functionality, so users can find past messages easily.
At a launch on Monday, Telus said IP-One spells simplicity.
“Managing the interaction between a unified messaging environment, the Web, an audio conferencing environment, would be insanely complex and expensive for a company,” said John Seliga, a Telus vice-president. “Telus’s core competency is in infrastructure management, and managing complex interactions. Let’s pull that back into the cloud. We will continue to develop new IP applications, make them available to companies that are struggling with all this complexity. They can enjoy the benefits without having to worry about supporting it.”
Brian Sharwood, an analyst at SeaBoard Group Inc. in Toronto, said IP-One is “Centrex on steroids,” meaning the product is outsourced like Centrex, but boosted with IP functionality for an improved end-user experience.
IP-One’s communication-friendly functionality comes courtesy of Cisco Systems Inc., whose equipment underscores Telus’s product.
“If you look at enterprise customers today, you have a lot that will go and buy standalone PBXs,” said Chris Bazinet of Cisco Canada. “You have another type of customer that prefers an outsourced service like Centrex. As we’re moving forward with IP communication, that need is still there….We cannot address that aspect on our own. We need to work with service providers to deliver that, to meet the requirements of customers that want an outsourced service.”
According to Ronald Gruia, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan in Toronto, Telus might find fans for IP-One among small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“It’s very valuable. It’s going to eliminate the headache of having their equipment on premises.”
Telus said it’s finding favour among large enterprises.
“We have a lot of very large companies we’re talking to that see this as a great solution for outlying offices, with 100 or 200 people, and then get them up and running…then convert head office,” Seliga said.
One company already reaping IP-One’s benefits is application development provider Borland Software Corp.
“We were looking for a way to meet a number of business challenges,” said Chris Corey, regional vice-president, Canada and Latin America at Borland in Toronto. “A number of those could be encapsulated under ‘communication’ – outward communication with customers, inward communication between teams.”
He explained that over the years Borland has expanded, and so has its workforce. Now the firm employs experts all over the country. Bringing them together was difficult via traditional telephony.
“I may have a person in Calgary who’s an expert in design. I want to be able to leverage that person for a customer in Toronto. The requirement for us to streamline communications, become a virtual team, was critical.”
Now IP-One acts as the unifying force that Borland firm sought.
“Based on initial calculations, and they’ve been for the most part confirmed, hard cost savings are in the range of 20 per cent,” Corey said. “A lot of that is in the remote environment, where we had people using long-distance and multiple phone lines – home office, cell phone, plus head office phone lines. Administration: before, we had a full time receptionist just to track people down. Now that’s all automated.”
Seliga said IP-One pricing is on a per-port basis. He also said, watch for new IP-One functionality in the next release, due mid-2004.
Sharwood from SeaBoard Group said, watch for competition. Bell Canada “has been promising a lot, and I have a feeling they have a product coming close to the market.”
Telus is online at www.telus.com.