GTEInternetworking Grows VoIP Services

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (03/24/2000) - GTE Corp. Internetworking is expanding its voice-over-IP service, but business users are still not included.

And whether business customers want to be included remains an open question, as voice-over-IP services in general struggle to gain momentum.

Next week at the Voice on the Net conference here, GTE Internetworking will roll out its second wholesale voice-over-IP service, called ESP Direct. The offering lets unified messaging, IP fax or Internet call-waiting service providers support nationwide dial-in voice-over-IP.

Although ESP Direct and GTE Internetworking's existing International VoIP Direct services are targeted at other service providers, the ISP is planning voice-over-IP services for business users by year-end, says Nick Damenti, director of global voice-over-IP services at GTE Internetworking.

GTE Internetworking has 500 Cisco AS5300 voice-over-IP gateways deployed throughout its network. The firm is way ahead of other ISPs, such as PSINet, which announced voice-over-IP services for business users as early as July 1998 but only has deployed a handful of gateways.

While Damenti says converged services are coming from GTE Internetworking, "the exact form that those services will come in is not clear. We're still working out if the first services will be similar to call-center solutions or will be integrated voice and data access circuit services."

Equant just announced a service that will let business users sign up for a dedicated circuit over Equant's global IP network that supports voice and data.

But Equant customers will only be allowed to make voice calls to other voice-over-IP users on Equant's network. In June, Equant expects to deploy public switched telephone network (PSTN) gateways in its network that will allow users to call anyone.

PSINet announced a similar service 18 months ago and is the only other ISP offering voice over IP for business users. PSINet's PSIVoice service lets businesses connect multiple PBX switches to PSINet's backbone to reduce the costs associated with intracompany long-distance.

But PSINet's expanded voice-over-IP plans have yet to come to fruition. PSINet planned to roll out a service called iPEnterprise Plus, which was supposed to allow users to make voice calls over the Internet and public switched telephone networks in the first quarter of 1999. The service is still not available. And PSINet's wholesale iPGlobal voice-over-IP services that the ISP was planning to sell to other service providers by the end of last year are also missing.

So while the industry has been crowing about voice-over-IP services for years, there are still hurdles to overcome.

"The service providers are scared as heck to deploy equipment in their networks," says Tom Jenkins, senior analyst at TeleChoice, a consulting firm in Boston.

And as per-minute voice service rates continue to drop, customers need a better reason to switch services.

"Cost is not the driving factor when it comes to voice over IP," Jenkins says.

Business users are looking for operational efficiencies and enhanced service capabilities, he adds.

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