Broadwing readies VoIP services for business users

By Denise Pappalardo, Network World |  Networking

LAS VEGAS -- Broadwing is quietly putting together a voice-over-IP service for business users that promises ease of management and cost savings.

The firm has not announced its voice-over-IP plans, but did enter its Business VoIP service in NetWorld+Interop 2001's Best of Show competition last week. While Broadwing would not comment on the service, Network World obtained a copy of the vendor's white paper describing the service.

Broadwing's offering will let business users connect their PBX voice switches to the company's IP backbone. The service will let users send intracompany voice traffic between locations over the same IP connections they use to connect to the Internet. The idea is to eliminate multiple WAN connections to reduce network management complexity.

Broadwing and its competitors, AT&T and WorldCom -- which announced similar voice-over-IP services this year -- say such services offer users a reduction in their overall voice service costs by eliminating traditional long-distance charges incurred when sending traffic over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

It appears Broadwing will offer domestic and international off-network calling capabilities. This will let users make voice-over-IP calls to anyone, not just people in their company.

Although voice-over-IP services are not widely used today, they are expected to grow. Research firm IDC recently polled 400 WAN managers with 100 to 5,000 employees and found that only 11% of those users say they are using integrated voice and data services. By year-end, 23% of users expect to roll out such services, though 64% still plan to keep voice and data networks separate.

Broadwing will support its service by deploying a customer premises equipment gateway at each user site. The service provider would not comment on which network vendor's gear it will use. But the gateways will support session initiation protocol (SIP) for call setup and Differentiated Services (Diff-Serv) for traffic prioritization, according to the company's white paper. SIP is used to send and receive voice calls between the PSTN and IP networks.

Broadwing will use Diff-Serv to mark voice packets in an effort to support traffic prioritization.

Broadwing will probably announce its Business VoIP Service by the end of June, but the company would not confirm a time frame. There were no details regarding pricing at press time.

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