By Prepaid Calling Cards
The Soothing Sounds Of VoIP Integration
BY MARC ROBINS
As you might imagine, I receive a torrent of press releases and announcements about anything and everything new in this amazing industry of ours. Not that I'm complaining mind you -- this stuff helps keep me on my toes. Every now and then, something moving across the transom catches my eye, and for this column, I thought I'd share a few of the more interesting tidbits I've come across.
ONLINE GAMING WITH A VoIP TWIST
Online gaming has never been hotter, and people are logging on in droves to play games like backgammon, chess, and Doom against each other in real time over the Net. Gaming bells and whistles, like being able to text chat with your opponent, have added new dimensions to the experience. Now, online gaming is about to get a huge boost, with VoIP. Back in May, InnoMedia announced a partnership with Sega Enterprises, Ltd. that will revolutionize the gaming experience for millions of Sega gamers around the world. Sega has plans to incorporate InnoMedia's Internet telephony capabilities into its new Dreamcast game console, to allow online gamers to voice chat with each other while playing games over the Internet. Dubbed DreamCall, this new Sega product will also allow Sega gamers to use their Dreamcast device to place Internet phone calls and speak with any other DreamCall Sega gamer in the world for free, bypassing long-distance toll charges. They can also use the VoIP-enabled Dreamcast device to place calls to any wireline or wireless telephone in more than 200 countries through InnoSphere, InnoMedia's global Internet telephony service network. Sample InnoSphere rates are two cents per minute to Hong Kong; five cents per minute to the US or the UK; and nine cents per minute to Japan, Australia, Canada, and most of Europe. Gamers in Japan are the first to enjoy this new capability, while those in the United States and Europe will be up next.
BRINGING CENTREX INTO THE 21ST CENTURY
Centrex, the forlorn alternative to PBX, will soon be getting a VoIP shot in the arm from Bell Atlantic. Announced in early July, Bell Atlantic introduced a "Centrex No-Risk Technology Protection Plan" -- an initiative to accelerate the deployment of its converged network strategy that would enable customers to leverage the benefits of IP technology while retaining the capabilities of Bell Atlantic's Advanced Intelligent Network (AIN). The plan is intended to enable current and new Centrex customers to use Bell Atlantic's VoIP capability as it becomes available. Because Centrex is a network-hosted, managed voice service, Centrex customers would get the benefit of the latest developments. The new network architecture will take advantage of AIN technology, built into Bell Atlantic's network in recent years, and will enable feature activation in conjunction with IP voice technology. To be sure, Bell Atlantic's ongoing network modernization is among the most aggressive in the industry, with over $6 billion a year being invested in network technologies, including AIN, asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) switching, and high-bandwidth infrastructure. By enhancing the network's power with higher-level intelligence controlling the switching, Bell Atlantic is positioning itself to route voice traffic in and out of both circuit-switched and IP networks.
THE DEBUT OF PHONECASTING
Modeled after television and radio broadcasting, phonecasting is a media network of Internet-sourced audio channels for news, entertainment, and shopping available to telephones. PhoneRun, a Boston-based startup, has allied with WorldCom to allow callers to customize their phonecasting experience and direct it with simple voice commands. The new Phonecasting offering will allow users to create personal radio stations featuring audio channels such as AP News, The Nightly Business Report, and Weather.com, as well as traffic updates, stock news, horoscopes, books-on-tape, CEO speeches, and live sporting events. For WorldCom, PhoneRun is the first in a series of innovative content and service partners assembled to form a comprehensive voice portal product line. This work is driven by WorldCom's recently announced "generation d" initiative.
The two companies will create phonecasting "stations" at points of telephone contact such as call centers and mobile phones, allowing callers to access phonecasting instantly by saying "PhoneRun." For example, mobile callers will be able to create their own radio stations with on-demand programs of choice for their morning and evening commutes. WorldCom will also be able to place phonecasting on the corporate phones of its customers and add corporate channels to build voice-driven intranets. Thus, employees could access company announcements or hear the latest industry news via voice command. WorldCom will either install phonecasting stations directly or serve as an ASP for these services.
So keep sending those news announcements and pay close attention. As VoIP becomes more integrated with mainstream services and applications, it's true promise will catch more than a few eyes -- and ears.
Marc Robins is Associate Group Publisher. His column, Mind Share, appears monthly in the pages of INTERNET TELEPHONY? magazine. Marc looks forward to your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.