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BT Aims to be The Network's Network

BT  wants to ride the VoIP  wave rather than get swamped by it.

The British networking giant today announced that it is offering an "out of the box" service that will let Internet service providers (ISPs) offer their customers Internet phone calls. It is available in the U.S. and elsewhere outside the U.K.

BT's IP Voice Managed Service (VMS) will allow ISPs, cable providers and other resellers to become voice communication providers practically overnight, without having to invest in IT and network infrastructure.

The offering includes a globally distributed IP network, session border controller (SBC) functionality and VoIP firewall capabilities. SBCs are critical to the deployment of VoIP networks because they address the inability of real-time session traffic to cross certain boundaries, such as network address translation devices or firewalls.

VMS also includes a single Web-based interface to let customers monitor call flow and control their expenses.

Karsten Lereuth, president of BT Global Telecom Markets, noted that the service will help smaller companies increase their speed to market and improve customer service at a much lower cost than if they had to build the network themselves.

"The whole solution is Microsoft-enabled to provide both new entrants and existing telecom providers access to an exciting and expanding market," he said in a statement.

BT enjoys a particularly tight relationship with Microsoft , with which it is involved in various joint ventures, including a recent effort to boost development of applications for wireless handsets.

VMS is not available to U.K. resellers, probably because BT doesn't want to cannibalize its own retail offerings, which now also include VoIP.

But the service is a way for BT get in on the ground floor in markets where national carriers are in a similar position to BT's in the U.K., which is to say that they are understandably reluctant to compete with themselves.

Simon Forge, an analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates, said the move reflects the tacit acknowledgment by BT that VoIP will ultimately replace traditional switching telephony.

BT has bowed to market pressures from Skype, Vonage  and others in its domestic market by quietly rolling out a VoIP offering of its own.

"They've just come out of the closet about it and admitted that this is the future," he said.

He noted that BT can enjoy a first-mover advantage in areas where the major players still don't have a dominant position in the market.

"You'd want to eat that lunch before anyone else does," he told internetnews.com.

He said that BT will also be able to leverage the service to generate incremental revenues for its global network.



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