Avaya announces VoIP subscription service

Avaya Tuesday is announcing a new subscription-based monthly Voice over IP (VoIP) service for medium and large businesses that allows them to avoid complicated equipment installations.

The "worry-free" approach, called Avaya On Demand, is unusual for an equipment provider and is now more commonly offered by service providers, said George Humphrey, director of the new program, which is being announced at Interop Las Vegas 2006. Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks offer VOIP services for carriers, who then sell the service to enterprises. But neither offers the service directly to businesses, spokesmen for the two companies said.

Avaya On Demand will start at US$25 per month per user for IP telephony services, including voice mail, and an IP-based voice mail service can be purchased separately for US$5 per user per month, Humphrey said. A call center can purchase the service for between US$50 and US$150 per agent.

One new user of the service for the past three weeks is XM Satellite Radio, in Washington, D.C., which is relying on Avaya instead of a conventional service provider because of past difficulties with service providers, said Tanya Callaway, director of technical operations for XM.

"Telcos do offer a call center service, but they don't know the call center business and they can't move fast enough for me," said Callaway who has worked with several service providers.

XM officials prefer a service to support the company's call center, which has about 1,600 agents for 10 months of the year -- and 3,000 in November and December when demand is high, Callaway said.

"We used to provide our own call center IP capability in the past, but it was very difficult and painful," Callaway said. "It became very risky" to have to add capacity suddenly in the fall. As a result, it is more cost-effective to use a service -- as long as the provider is capable, she said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said Avaya's on-demand service is "interesting" and acknowledged that service providers "haven't done a good job" overall in setting up VoIP for customers, partly because VoIP is "complicated" to provide.

Humphrey said V0IP has been complicated to set up for a company, partly because it must operate on the network and can be affected by data applications. Avaya CEO Don Peterson in February discussed the complexity of VoIP installations for enterprises at a keynote at VoiceCon. Avaya has offered a carrier VoIP service to carriers for the last decade, Humphrey said.

Avaya is announcing the S8400 Media Server, a Linux blade server that is used to upgrade Avaya Definity ProLogis, IP600 and Avaya S8100 Media Service to IP telephony and the latest version of Avaya Communication Manager, Avaya said. The server starts at US$4,500 for existing customers, and is available now.

For companies of between 100 and 500 workers, Avaya is announcing MultiVantage Express, a package of software and hardware for voice mail, conferencing, call center applications and cellular phone access, said Avaya's Lawrence Byrd, director of IP telephony and mobility.

MultiVantage Express will be available in June for US$850 per user, including all licenses, applications and phones, he said.

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