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Bell Canada Commits to IP Telephony

Bell Canada and Nortel Networks are teaming up to build out new IP telephony services for the telecom giant's enterprise customers, a move that comes with an initial investment of $146 million (US, $200 million CDN) over three years.

Bell Canada said it plans to work in conjunction with Aliant and Bell West along with Nortel Networks on the "next generation network," which would include new voice and multimedia services and applications.

Initially, the plan is to build out and then roll out new voice services using Nortel's digital switching technology and based on the SIP (session initiated protocol) networking standard for overlaying voice appplications over IP networks.

With the new IP-based network, Bell customers will be able to enjoy new phone features such "instant video calling," a way of launching a video or voice conference call using IP and instant messaging and without any pre-arranged conferencing. Portable phone numbers, a feature Bell Canada calls "hot desking," will enable users to essentially bring their work phones and phone numbers with them on the road and take calls as though they were in the office by logging into a voice-application server.

Other features include "unified messaging," which lets a user receive voice mail, email and fax messages in one location, and manage them from one window on their PC.

Bell said it plans to use a Nortel Networks Succession Communication Server, dubbed a "superclass" softswitch to designate its carrier-grade availability, for the new IP-related voice services.

A spokesperson for Nortel said the new services are not currently supported in the SOAP (simple object access protocol) or SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions) , which are seen by industry experts as true next-generation interoperability standards for sharing data across different platforms.

Bell said it plans to deploy a Nortel Networks' Multimedia Communication Server (MCS) 5200 (formerly known as the Interactive Multimedia Server or IMS) to help host the applications that are based on the SIP messaging standard.

Initial commercial service availability is scheduled for mid-2004, Bell said, and is to include hosted VoIP and multimedia services for businesses with private or managed networks.