Multinational VoIP services get a boost from Equant

Multinational service providers are beefing up managed converged network services with new guarantees and cost-effective call-routing features.

Last week Equant NV announced service-level agreements (SLA) for its Integrated Voice and Data (IVAD) service that guarantees call quality. Also, Global One announced enhanced call routing, which the company says will more cost effectively route calls over its Global IP VPN voice-over-IP service.

IVAD lets users in 55 countries establish voice and data VPNs that are fully managed by Equant. The company's new SLA guarantees that 99.5 percent of calls will be completed and that users will not experience more than 6 seconds of delay between the time they finish dialing and when they hear ringing or a busy signal. The SLA also guarantees that 95 percent of fax traffic will be transmitted at 9.6K bps.

Equant also has deployed software that it calls Telephone Quality Analyzer, which measures the quality of voice calls on the network. The system specifically picks up packet loss, latency and noise levels. The Telephone Quality Analyzer rates calls from one to six, and Equant guarantees 95 percent will score three or higher.

This is Equant's first voice-traffic SLA, which more businesses want as they add voice to their data networks, says Brownlee Thomas, an analyst at consulting firm Giga Information Group. Global One and Infonet offer similar services, but only Global One is offering voice SLAs, she says.

Global One would not reveal its standard voice-over-IP SLA metrics, saying it negotiates metrics with each customer.

But, perhaps Global One and Equant's SLAs will soon be identical. France Telecom, Global One's parent company and Equant are in the process of a US$300 million complex merger that will integrate Equant and Global One. The merger has been approved by international and domestic regulatory bodies.

The companies expect the merger to be final by midyear. "My advice to clients is to renegotiate their contracts in light of the merger and insist on the best of either company's SLA," Thomas says.

Equant customers can now view weekly and monthly call detail reports online.

"The reports include outgoing calls so managers can easily bill back to departments. The reports also include the monthly voice and data performance statistics," says Dan da Costa, director of IP enhanced services at Equant.

Global One, Equant's soon-to-be corporate cousin, has been enhancing its Global IP VPN VoIP service, which lets users establish voice and data VPNs in 80 countries. The multinational carrier has deployed a Netcentrix VoIP VPN Gatekeeper softswitch in its network, which supports "best-cost routing," says Tom Wyrick, vice president of market development.

The gatekeeper can determine the best route for calls that are headed off Global One's data network to the public switched telephone network. The device looks for the least congested route and the route that will terminate the call closest to its final destination, Wyrick explains.

These converged services are for multinational companies that have a significant amount of intracompany voice and fax traffic, Giga's Thomas says. In some cases users can save up to 50 percent compared with supporting separate voice and data networks. But Thomas points out that these savings are typically between U.S. and the Middle East or Asia for example, not on transatlantic routes.

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