Equant Expands VoIP Services

FRAMINGHAM (07/20/2000) - Equant Network Services Inc. earlier this week announced it now supports off-net voice-over-IP calls for multinational business customers.

Equant first announced its voice-over-IP service in March, but customers of that service were limited to making calls to other users on Equant's network.

Now Equant customers can call just about anywhere.

The service provider can terminate calls in 220 countries and originate calls in 54 countries, says Keith Finger, convergence product marketing manager.

Equant has deployed five Cisco Systems Inc. AS5300 Universal Access Servers throughout its network to hand off calls from Equant customers to the public switched telephone network.

Equant is trying to take customers away from the traditional long-haul voice service providers, says Brownlee Thomas, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm. But customers will only eliminate their long-distance service provider if the price is right, she says.

Equant charges its voice-over-IP customers a flat rate based on a customer's port connection to Equant's network. Customers are not charged by how much data or voice traffic is sent over that connection. But that is not the case when it comes to voice calls destined for other service provider networks.

Customers that make off-net calls will be charged a per-minute rate, Finger explains. Equant's rates vary, depending on the countries in which a call originates and terminates, but here are a few examples:

-Calls from the U.S. to the U.K. cost 8.1 cents per minute-Calls from the U.K. to France cost 9.5 cents per minute-Calls from France to Germany cost 9.9 cents per minute-Calls from Japan to the U.S. cost 17 cents per minute=Calls from Singapore to Australia cost 22.5 cents per minute"Customers will not drop their traditional voice service providers at these rates," Thomas says. Other service providers such as WorldCom Inc. or AT&T Corp. in Japan offer lower rates, but customers have to commit to usage volumes. Users that do not want to commit to usage volumes or only call certain countries a few times a month may prefer Equant's service, she says.

More than 100 multinational companies are using Equant's voice-over-IP services already. Finger says that most of those customers are in Western Europe, North America and Asia Pacific regions. Coca-Cola Amatil is Equant's largest voice-over-IP customer to date.

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