Infonet Unveils Cut-Rate Global Off-Net Plan

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA (10/10/2000) - Infonet Services has added an off-net component to its global packet telephony service to let multinational corporations pay low per-minute tolls when calling outside the company.

The new component, called One World International Call Pricing Plan, features a unique flat rate for each participating country. That means all off-net calls terminating in that country cost the same, no matter where they originate.

For example, all Infonet users on the plan pay 2.2 US cents per minute for calls terminating in Britain, regardless of where the calls are placed. The rate for Germany is 3.5 cents per minute and for the U.S., 3.9 cents per minute. Other countries are similarly priced well below traditional international telephony rates (see graphic).

But to get the plan, users must subscribe to Infonet's international voice/data packet network called Global Multimedia Service (GMS). GMS is a hybrid ATM/ frame relay network that carries on-net calls - those between corporate locations or to authorized extranet participants - via Infonet's Nortel Passport switches installed worldwide.

GMS is a managed service in which users pay a monthly fee for each available voice channel, although there is no toll charge for on-net calls. Infonet also supplies customer premises equipment with voice compression/decompression capability, generally the modular Cisco 2600 or 3600 multiservice platforms.

The off-net calls generate a toll, but the reason they are lower than normal international toll charges is that Infonet carries the traffic as far as possible on the GMS packet network, says Chris Western, Infonet product manager for multimedia services. Infonet also seeks competitive local carriers for termination to keep costs down, he says.

Infonet estimates 20 percent to 40 percent of a typical company's international voice traffic stays within the firm, while the rest terminates off-net and is ordinarily subject to high international tolls. When carried over the public telephone network, those tolls generally include government-imposed "settlement charges" that foreign carriers must pay in the terminating country. Such settlement charges, although now in decline following the 65-nation 1998 World Trade Organization agreement on basic telecommunications, still can add 15 to 25 cents per minute - or more in Third World countries - to the bill.

Analysts praised Infonet's ability to leverage its multimedia packet network to lower costs even for traffic headed outside the corporation.

"This is a vastly simplified approach to off-net voice billing and distinct from the converged voice and data services of other providers," says Mark Winther, group vice president for worldwide telecommunications at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

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