Telus last month introduced a new wrinkle to its IP-One managed telephony service, called IP-One Evolution, that allows large and medium business customers to gradually migrate from a traditional Centrex offering to a hosted IP service.

The original IP-One service requires customers to give up their Centrex service and switch to IP with no gradual transition.

Centrex customers looking for an IP service today are faced with a tough decision, said Joe Natale, Telus executive vice-president and president of Telus Business Solutions.

“You’re talking about either forklifting Centrex out right now across that whole base of customers and replacing it with something that’s IP-based,” he explained. “Or you might be talking about isolating a campus, or a portion of your network and putting them on IP.”

IP-One Evolution gives users a third choice, letting them grow their IP telephony base as they become more comfortable with the technology, Natale said.

“Even if you don’t change the way you do anything, there’s a benefit, because moves, adds and changes can all be done by the organization through a Web portal,” he explained. Traditional Centrex users typically have to rely on their carrier to make changes for them.

A more gradual transition from Centrex to IP could benefit the carrier as much as the customer, noted Iain Grant, managing director of research firm Seaboard Group.

“A migration from Centrex to IP, if done quickly, is really a trauma for the carrier,” he said.

Ideally, carriers would like to make the transtion slowly, Grant noted. “That way if something goes wrong, it doesn’t bring down the whole ship.”

Offering managed IP services gives carriers like Telus a chance to keep at least some of their business voice revenue, instead of having it go to an IP platform provider like Mitel, Avaya, Cisco or Nortel, Grant said.

“The carriers have to say, ‘Do we really want all our revenue streams going down to one and then have someone else own the premise gear, or should we bring the old Centrex model out?’” he said.

IP-One Evolution will be generally available in Q1, 2005, Natale said. It will probably be priced just below Centrex prices with lower pricing for volume customers.