Equant polishes up its VoIP offer

Equant is expanding the availability of its voice-over-IP service and lowering its per-minute service rates for customers.

The carrier this week announced that its Voice for IP VPN service is now available in 17 additional countries, costs less and will support multiple vendor products by year-end.

Equant's Voice for IP VPN service, which runs over the carrier's Multiprotocol Label Switching IP network, is now available in 93 countries. Algeria, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are three of the 17 new countries the carrier has added this year.

The carrier has also benefited from recent regulatory approvals in China and India, says Michael Burrell, head of enterprise telephony at Equant.

Equant has been offering on-net voice over its VPN service to customers in China and India for a couple of years. But it was not permitted to terminate calls outside of a user's corporate network. Both countries have made changes to their telecommunications regulations that lift those restrictions. Now Equant customers can make voice-over-IP calls destined for locations outside of their company to Europe or the U.S. from China, Burrell says.

Additional countries, such as Costa Rica and Mexico, are expected to be added to the list of countries where Voice for IP VPN will be available this year.

Equant also plans to add support for Avaya Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp. IP telephony gear for its Voice for IP VPN service. Today, users must deploy Cisco Systems Inc.'s IP PBX gear. By the end of the third quarter, users will have three vendors to choose from.

Equant has also dropped its per-minute service rates. While users do not pay any additional fees for on-net voice calls, they do pay per-minute rates for calls destined for the public switched telephone network. Burrell says Equant has lowered its rates around the world by 30 percent to 50 percent. For example Equant's list price for off-net calls in the U.S. is US$2.9 cents per minute, which Burrell says is competitive with traditional long distance rates from AT&T Corp., MCI Inc. and Sprint Corp. That's about 50 percent less than what the carrier was charging in 2003.

The carrier says it's seen a significant rate of adoption of its Voice for IP VPN service in the past 12 months. A year ago Equant supported 700 VoIP sites, and now it is supporting 1,300. Burrell says he expects that number to double again by year-end.

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