RealTime IT News

BT, Cisco Fuel MSN Telephony

For an as-yet-unannounced monthly fee, MSN users in the U.K. can make PC-to-PC phone calls, it was announced Thursday.

British Telecommunications (BT), the incumbent telephone company in the country, using Cisco Systems public switched telephone network (PSTN) gateways, will deliver a service called PC 2 UK in the near future.

The service is available only to MSN users in the U.K. logging into their Microsoft Passport account for the time being, though BT is free to sign on other providers in the future.

MSN officials look at the new offering as another value-add service, bringing in another revenue stream to their fixed monthly fee for Internet access. BT officials view it as the same: both companies will divvy up the PC 2 UK revenues, though the percentage hasn't been announced.

John Blake, BT Ignite head of voice over IP (VoIP), said user demand is what brought the three companies together for the project.

"The increasing number of computers in homes has brought a growing demand for the ability to cost-effectively make calls whilst surfing the Web. PC 2 UK addresses this need," he said. "Working with Cisco was an obvious choice for this project because they have strong existing relationships with BT and Microsoft."

BT is looking for new revenue opportunities. Oftel, the U.K. equivalent of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced Wednesday the telephone company would abide by new price controls designed to open up the telecom market to competitors.

Under the new license conditions imposed by Oftel and agreed to by BT, competitors can offer a complete telephone line package under one bill. The price of the wholesale service will eventually be tied to the rate of inflation. BT officials announced Thursday the implementation of Convergys Corp. billing and rating software to accommodate the Oftel ruling.

BT is using Cisco PGW 2200 PSTN Gateway to connect voice calls over the PC for MSN users, which routes calls between traditional signaling system 7 (SS7) networks and session initiation protocol (SIP) networks designed for voice over IP (VoIP) traffic.

Michael Ansley, Cisco head of voice technologies, said the VoIP service is a good example of three different companies coming together to deliver the latest technologies.

"The project between BT, Microsoft and Cisco is a clear example of how all the parties are using the capabilities of new technology to bring benefits and services to their customers," he said. "This is a very exciting project for the UK market."