Fiberlink Takes Skype to the Office

By Eric Griffith | May 11, 2005 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/Fiberlink-Takes-Skype-to-the-Office--3504341.htm

Ten-year-old Fiberlink of Blue Bell, Pa. doesn't leave many stones unturned in trying to keep mobile employees connected to their corporate headquarters. The Fiberlink software called Extend360 supports connections via dial-up, Wi-Fi and CDMA cellular, and is adding CDMA EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized).

On top of that, the company is going to offer voice connections using Skype, and anti-spyware checks via Webroot Software's Spy Sweeper.

While Fiberlink said it could not confirm what company it was partnering with for EV-DO access, it did say it is not Sprint, which pretty much leaves Verizon Wireless. It has EV-DO networks in 30 major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago under the brand name BroadbandAccess. Parent company Verizon is dropping hotspots (such as its "free" payphone hotspots in New York City) in favor of EV-DO for broadband Internet access.

Skip Taylor, Vice President of Product Marketing at Fiberlink, says he expects the number of EV-DO networks to grow. For now, supporting it "can serve not as a replacement [for Wi-Fi connections], but as an option."

Perhaps more amazing is the deal struck with Luxembourg-based Skype. The two are entering a strategic partnership that will allow mobile workers with Extend360 software to employ bundled Skype VoIP software for Internet-based phone calls while on the road.

Chief Marketing Officer Bill Wagner says Fiberlink employees themselves started using Skype last year when traveling, which helped lead up to the deal. He says using Extend360 for connections helps address some security issues with the VoIP software, enough to make it ready for use by enterprises, not just enthusiasts. This is due to a "higher levels of security during Skype peer-to-peer transactions," according to a company statement.

Skype says over 100 million copies of its software have been downloaded to date. Calls between Skype users are free, while calls out to any POTS (plain old telephone system) lines in the world have a charge around that of the normal local phone rate. The company is testing services for calls to come into Skype users from POTS, as well as a voicemail service which will be paid for by the minute. The minutes will probably be purchased ahead of time in bulk by a corporation that wants to provide the voicemail service.

Skype is available on Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Pocket PC, while Fiberlink's Extend360 software is limited to Windows and Mac users at the moment -- though the company may make an announcement about PDA support soon.