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When users talk, they know telco will be listening.

Users of ISDN in Southwestern Bell Telephone territory are uniting in a group to share their experiences and wield some influence over how their operating company rolls out the technology.

The group is the ISDN/Advanced Technologies User Forum. It is run by users, with assistance from Southwestern Bell. The forum's steering committee meets this month in San Antonio, Texas, and has scheduled its next general meeting for May 20.

Lew French, telecommunications manager for the 3M facility in Austin, Texas, is co-chairman of the forum's steering committee.

"We're just getting it formed," French says of the forum. "At our first meeting in December, there was a real good turnout. About 100 users and vendors attended. We have maybe a dozen people who volunteered for the steering committee. When we meet in San Antonio, we'll take a look at what kind of interest we've generated."

The forum is cooperating with Southwestern Bell in putting out an applications catalog that will describe how members of the forum are using ISDN.

Steve Millstein, division manager of business product development for Southwestern Bell, says the telco is writing up the first catalog, but after that, "we fully anticipate users will write up their own applications.

"These will describe in detail the technology and how it was hooked up. It's one thing to talk about the application, but when you get in and see the configuration, the pricing, the throughput, these are of more value."

French explains that the forum has three membership classifications. Voting members are primarily the users of ISDN and related advanced technology products. Non-voting members are mostly Southwestern Bell personnel. Associate members consist of consultants and vendors of products and services.

Membership costs $200 a year for voting user members.

Among companies represented on the group's steering committee are 3M, Shell Oil, Alcatel Network Systems, Valero Transmission, Halliburton, JCPenney and Tenneco.

"We're excited about this," French says. "We're looking forward to participation by the membership. It's primarily ISDN, but also any other advanced technologies that we want to be able to influence Southwestern Bell's development and deployment."

Among those advanced technologies are switched multimegabit data services, FDDI, Sonet, fast packet switching and building distribution systems.

"Based on this body of users and their concerns and problems, and where we see the technology leading, we want Southwestern Bell to listen and to give us their attention," French says.

Southwestern Bell's Millstein says the company's attention is guaranteed.

"Users benefit by sharing ideas and applications and by the input they give to us about what products and services we bring out, how fast we bring out the technology and how we tariff it.

"You don't have to be a member of this forum to do that, but it gives a focused, organized voice that we fully intend to utilize as we develop products and services, price them and deploy them."

The telco benefits, Millstein says, because it has "a built-in focus group, a group of customers we can run things by or trial a new service with. We get business partners, willing to work with us to bring advanced technologies to the market."

Forum members won't get everything they want, but they understand that, Millstein says.

"What I've found is that they are business people and they understand there may be things we want to do, but the economics of it don't pan out. As long as we are discussing it with them, that in itself creates a healthier environment. They are extremely understanding when I sit down with them and say, 'This is the dilemma I have.' "

As far as Southwestern Bell's ISDN rollout goes, Millstein says the company has a "sell and deploy" philosophy with larger customers, coupled with a cautious general extension of the technology.

"There is no change in our policy to put the technology out there, but there are issues such as standards that we have to watch," Millstein says.

"As we formulate what we want to do, talking to this user group that has already bought it helps us form our opinion."

While larger customers are the ones showing the most interest in ISDN, Millstein suggests that smaller users will eventually drive ISDN deployment.

"Our basic rate filing is line by line," he says. "We believe that maximum deployment of ISDN and advanced central office technologies is going to rely on the lower end. We need that mass appeal."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ISDN Forum; Integrated Services Digital Network; The ISDN/Advanced Technologies User Forum for SouthWestern Bell ISDN users
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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