AudioCodes aims to help create 'voice ASPs'
Forget free long-distance. Users will only sign up with voice-over-IP service providers if they also offer IP-enabled voice applications such as speech recognition, unified messaging and conference calling, some vendors and analysts say.
AudioCodes, an Israel-based maker of voice-over-IP gateway components and system boards, hopes to capitalize on this idea with two new voice-over-IP server products for service providers.
AudioCodes' IPmedia Server and IPmedia Server Card are call server products that provide several standard PBX functions and let OEMs build additional applications on top of the devices. The company is aiming the products at OEM vendors that sell to voice application service providers.
"For most people who put their voice transport on an [IP] network, all they're really getting right now is cheap minutes," says Shmuel Bachinsky, vice president of marketing at AudioCodes' IPmedia group. "Inside the U.S., long-distance is already about 5 cents per minute and can be as low as 2 cents per minute. What's the point of using IP to bypass that?"
Bachinsky says integrated voice mail and e-mail applications, as well as IP-based teleconferencing over a wide area, are the real draws of voice-over-IP services.
Both IPmedia products include voice mail, speech recognition and interactive voice response and conference calling. The devices also support several unified messaging applications, including text-to-speech -- which lets an end-user "listen" to an e-mail over a cell phone -- and an application that lets end users access voice, e-mail and fax messages through one interface.
The IPmedia products also include application programming interfaces that resellers and service providers can use to write software on top of the IPmedia Server's base applications. This could include customized billing software for tracking customer system usage or integration with third-party messaging applications and service provider equipment, such as softswitches or other communications servers.
AudioCodes will ship the IPmedia Server and Server Card to OEM partners in the first quarter of next year. Tundo, a maker of voice-over-IP gateways, media servers and applications for service providers, will ship the IPmedia Server Card in its voice gateway products aimed at service providers at that time.
Tom Valovic, an analyst with Framingham, Mass., research firm IDC who covers the voice-over-IP industry, agrees that voice-over-IP applications will have to replace long-distance rate arbitrage as the raison d'etre for IP telephony.
"The conventional wisdom in voice over IP has been that applications will really sustain and buoy up that market," Valovic says. "That's true, but only if vendors are able to come up with some real innovative new services and killer applications."
Valovic says IP-based unified messaging and other advanced voice-over-IP applications need to start living up to the marketing of some vendors and service providers: "There's been too much talk and not enough deployment [of advanced voice-over-IP application services] for some time now."