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"Killer app" is on the loose.

Unified messaging is a key service enabled by the next-generation network.

Unified messaging has been touted as the "killer app" for service-provider networks for many years. It's no wonder. Unified messaging could be described as the ultimate demonstration of converged technologies, bringing together voice, fax, and e-mail in one service. With unified messaging, users no longer have to contend with multiple communications services--they can now access all phone, fax, and electronic messages from a single, centralized data store.

However, despite its significant benefits, unified messaging has not been widely adopted. Until recently, carrier networks haven't been designed to support the convergence of voice, data, and fax traffic, nor have scalable carrier-class solutions existed. Additionally, the lack of standards for the various components of unified messaging, combined with a dearth of solutions that could scale to carrier-class proportions, has slowed deployment of the service.

All this is beginning to change as service providers migrate from the traditional, circuit-switched PSTN (public switched telephone network) to next-generation, IP-based network infrastructures. Hamilton, Bermuda-based Global Crossing is one of the companies leading the charge to the new public network, producing new business opportunities while outperforming the competition. The company's original mission--to be the world's first independent provider of undersea, fiber-optic communications systems--has since been modified from shore-to-shore connectivity to an expanded goal of city-to-city connectivity. Global Crossing is now building terrestrial systems linking its transoceanic cables to major metropolitan centers around the world.

Global Crossing, which recently completed a merger with Frontier Corp., is creating the first owned and operated global IP-based fiber-optic network able to provide customers with integrated worldwide Internet, data, long-distance, local telephone, and conferencing services. With network volumes expected to triple over the next few years, the company needed to deploy a next-generation, carrier-class network to support existing customer services, as well as new, enhanced IP-based services, such as unified messaging.

Its new voice-over-IP (VoIP) network emanated from the company's strategic commitment to provide its customers with the industry's most advanced services. The carrier also needed to handle a significant increase in call volumes fueled by its acquisitions and growth and wanted to utilize bandwidth across its fiber-optic network more effectively and economically. Having long used traditional legacy circuit switches, Global Crossing began investigating a carrier-class VoIP solution in early 1998.

Although the company determined that VoIP technology had not reached carrier-class status at that time, developments over the next few months led Global Crossing to elevate its investigation. The carrier evaluated VoIP solutions from several of the major platform providers, testing each in its Denver development laboratory. After extensive testing, Global Crossing selected systems from Sonus Networks and Lucent Technologies and recently launched the United States' first "carrier-class" VoIP network. The network, scheduled for completion late last year, is expected to carry 100% of Global Crossing's voice traffic by the end of 2002.

The new VoIP network infrastructure is built on Sonus Networks' GSX9000 Open Services Switch and Lucent Technologies' intelligent Softswitch. The GSX9000 is a voice-over-packet central-office switch that meets the stringent demands of public carrier networks for interconnectivity, capacity, reliability, scalability, and voice quality. The Lucent Softswitch software architecture comprises a collection of communicating software components that are distributable across multiple hardware elements to provide call control and intelligent routing functions.


The combination of Sonus' GSX9000 and Lucent's Softswitch will enable Global Crossing to significantly increase the call-handling capacity of its preexisting circuit-based architecture and cut operating expenses in half. Additionally, with its next-generation VoIP network, the company will be able not only to offer new services that traditional phone networks can't deliver but also bring those services to market very quickly, giving customers a competitive advantage. Its new network will support enhanced services such as IP virtual private networks (VPN), paging, 800 services, credit card calls, Internet service, local telephone service, IP videoconferencing, and more.

Among these many innovative services, the new VoIP network will also herald the birth of a truly unified messaging platform--a revolutionary consolidation of voice, e-mail, and fax messages, enabling users to retrieve a range of communications via a single medium. This move to deliver unified messaging is part of an evolution of products and services that the carrier has offered for years. With its new infrastructure, Global Crossing will provide unified-messaging services to its business and consumer users, as well as CLECs, ILECs, and Web-hosting customers.

Leveraging the VoIP network infrastructure, Global Crossing's unified-messaging platform will combine these communications in the same data store. Messages will then be converted to support whichever access method is employed by the customer. Users can access their messages and faxes via a telephone, wireless device, or PDA. Alternatively, users can also retrieve and/or view their faxes and other messages via the Web. With these services, users have the administrative ability, message management, and the return capability wonderfully integrated. Global Crossing anticipates that features, such as video messaging, will grow in popularity and, eventually, also be incorporated into the unified-messaging service. Ultimately, the company plans to deliver calendaring and collaboration tools for ISPs, ASPs, and Web-centric businesses and portals, as well as its traditional business and consumer customers--initially in the U.S., internationally in the future.

For business users, the benefits of unified messaging are significant. With this service, mobile users, such as salespeople, executives, and other professionals, gain ubiquitous access to their voice, data, and fax messages, enabling them to utilize their time more effectively and significantly increase their productivity. Unified messaging makes it possible for these business users to stay in constant contact, regardless of their location, and gives them the ability to respond to critical business issues more quickly than ever before.

However, business professionals aren't the only ones demanding streamlined communications--consumers are also embracing unified messaging. As they have gained experience and become comfortable with applications, such as paging, voice mail, and e-mail, consumer users are now looking for one source of communications. Unified messaging offers this capability.


Circle 257 for more information from Sonus Networks
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Comment:Unified messaging has long been touted as a 'killer application' for service-provider networks, but has not been widely adopted due to lack of support on the carrier side for voice/data convergence.
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Shouldn't we be talking about voice over anything?
Next Article:Voice Over IP Buyers' Guide.

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