Telstra's U.S. unit launches global enterprise VOIP

Telstra's U.S. arm Thursday announced a global VOIP service for U.S. enterprises.

Telstra has taken a global VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service to U.S. enterprises.

The service, T-VOIP, is similar to one that the company already offers to customers in the Asia-Pacific region. Running on a private MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) backbone, it lets companies make all the calls they want between their offices for a monthly charge per virtual voice channel. Telstra sells network capacity for VOIP calls in the form of virtual channels that are like circuits on a traditional voice network, each supporting a certain number of simultaneous calls. They can also combine the VOIP service with long-distance data capacity, simplifying their connections and making more efficient use of bandwidth, according to Ilissa Miller, a product marketing manager at Telstra.

T-VOIP runs on Telstra US' private global IP network, based on parent Telstra's backbone as well as those of other partners. It reaches more than 52 countries, including most major countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and the Western Hemisphere as well as South Africa. Because calls on the service don't run over the public Internet, Telstra can offer and back up service level agreements, Miller said. The highest service level is guaranteed to provide a certain high level of voice quality 99.99 percent of the time, she said. Other SLAs are available at lower cost.

Depending on an enterprise's international calling pattern, T-VOIP could cut costs in half from regular international long-distance rates by adopting the service, according to Miller. As long as it contracts for sufficient capacity, the enterprise could make virtually unlimited "on-net" calls between offices for a flat monthly fee. For international "off-net" calls outside the enterprise, there is a flat rate per destination country regardless where the call originated. For example, an off-net call to a sales prospect in Japan would cost the same whether it was made from Los Angeles or London.

The MPLS technology underlying T-VOIP marks IP packets for certain types of treatment on an IP network, so delay-sensitive voice can be treated differently from data traffic. Telstra lets customers keep their traditional PBX (private branch exchange) platforms. Telstra will connect the PBXs to Cisco Systems routers equipped as VOIP gateways, said Dan Kerth, chief operating officer of Telstra. Customers can buy virtual voice channels dedicated to VOIP calls or combine voice and data traffic on the same network, letting voice channels carry data as needed. If calls exceed the number that can travel over the allocated voice channels, they will be shifted to the public switched telephone network, Miller said. Using a set of proprietary online applications, enterprises can keep track of their network usage.

The VOIP service by itself should represent good savings for enterprises that are spending an average of US$3,000 per site, per month, on voice services, Miller said. Because of greater efficiency, a converged network service that combines the VOIP and data coverage should make sense for companies spending about US$2,000 per site, per month on data and voice services, she said. The service is available immediately.

Telstra's U.S. unit is a relatively small, aggressive competitor, unlike its parent, Australia's reigning incumbent, said Geoff Johnson, a Gartner analyst based in Australia.

The T-VOIP service is best suited to midsized enterprises, Johnson said. The largest enterprises can realise greater cost savings and integration with their business applications by buying data network capacity and building their own VOIP system on top of it, he said.

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