Verizon helps businesses launch conferencing

By , IDG News Service |  Unified Communications, teleconferencing, Verizon

Verizon Business is giving enterprise employees more ways to get into virtual meetings quickly and easily.

Starting Wednesday, the service provider will let customers instantly set up or join audioconferences and collaboration sessions through IBM Lotus Sametime and Notes, and Cisco Jabber XCP. Similar capabilities for Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 will come later, probably within two months, according to Verizon Business.

Verizon Business supports audioconferences, as well as Web conferences using Microsoft Live Meeting and Cisco WebEx, for its enterprise customers. The new features are designed to make meetings more spontaneous, to keep up with office workers' demands for more remote collaboration, said Bill Versen, director of global unified communications and collaboration at Verizon Business.

Verizon Business customers with Microsoft Outlook e-mail can already set up links for immediate entry to conferences. For example, after users get a confirmation e-mail for a scheduled conference call in Outlook, they can each click on a button in the e-mail to enter the call, Versen said. The button makes the user's desk phone ring, so they can pick it up and get into the conference call without a call-in number or access code, he said.

The same thing is possible in Outlook to get into Microsoft Live Meeting and Cisco WebEx sessions, Versen said. An Outlook confirmation e-mail can contain a Web link to the session, which users can click on to enter. Live Meeting and WebEx conferences include sharing of applications and desktops.

Now, Verizon Business is announcing the expansion of that capability to instant messaging platforms, as well as to the Notes e-mail and calendaring software. In Sametime, Jabber and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, colleagues will be able to instantly escalate chat sessions to voice calls and to set up Web conferences. Verizon has already offered this feature in Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 but is now bringing it to Microsoft's latest unified communications software.

When one user escalates a chat session, the other participants will each get a link to click on. If an employee works in different locations, such as at home and the office, both numbers can appear in a pull-down menu from which the employee can pick the number to get called on, Versen said.

Jabber support became available late last year. For the Lotus products, the new capabilities are available in the U.S. immediately, and elsewhere probably within two months, after export approval. The updated Microsoft support will become available after export approval, Versen said. The new features will be free for Verizon Business customers with the relevant software and services.

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