BellSouth unveils IP Centrex

BellSouth Corp. this week unveiled an IP Centrex service for businesses looking to meld voice and data services.

The Centrex IP service, available throughout BellSouth's nine-state Southeast region, provides traditional Centrex voice services along with browser-based call management functions that link users to other data-oriented service applications enabled by VoIP.

Such services include:

Find Me, Follow Me, which sends communications to e-mail, voicemail or wireless phones based on time of day or availability. Access to incoming and outgoing call history for tracking, auditing and record keeping. Click to Dial and Click to Conference functions. Instant messaging, chat, polling, and instant document transfer that can run concurrently with basic voice conversations for more interactive communications. Centrex IP also reduces the costs of moves, adds and changes because IP configuration at the desktop is less expensive and time consuming than reprogramming a PBX, BellSouth says. The service also enables access to office calling features from any remote location with Internet access.

Centrex IP is the latest VoIP offering from BellSouth and its first network-based service. The RBOC has been providing equipment-based VoIP services to enterprises since 2001 and later this year will unveil a network-based, softswitch-enabled non-Centrex service. The carrier also plans to eventually offer nationwide, or out-of-region, VoIP services, says Mark Kaish, BellSouth vice president of next-generation services.

Other RBOCs offering VoIP to enterprises include SBC, which unveiled its PremierSERV Hosted IP Communication Service last fall. Verizon plans to offer a managed VoIP service to businesses later this year, as does Qwest, which currently has a consumer VoIP offering in Minnesota.

BellSouth tapped Lucent to supply the equipment for Centrex IP. BellSouth is deploying Lucent's EBS Communication Manager, which works with telephony systems to deliver Web-based business applications; and iMerge Centrex Feature Gateway, which delivers Class 5 switch functionality over a packet network.

Separately, BellSouth said it will deploy Nortel's packet voice tandem switches for its core network. Network testing is slated to begin soon and deployment is expected during the second half of the year.

BellSouth expects to roll out its first voice tandem system, which includes Nortel's Succession Communication Server (CS) 2000 softswitch and Succession Multiservice Gateway 4000 products, in Memphis. Succession CS 2000 will operate as a tandem switch in BellSouth's network, transferring calls between BellSouth Central Offices. Succession Multiservice Gateway 4000 is a TDM-to-packet trunking gateway.

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