A Phone Number for Life

New service will provide international numbers that work anywhere, with any IP-based communications device—but so far, few Tier 1 carriers support the system.

By Gerry Blackwell | Posted Jul 6, 2005
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Global Crossing recently announced its Carrier VoIP Community Peering service, extending to carriers a service that the company first offered to its enterprise customers in June of this year. The service is intended to help the company's carrier customers manage their costs, support advanced IP functionality, and potentially offer flat-rate pricing to their end users.

Chris Smith, senior product manager at Global Crossing, says the expansion of the offering to carriers was initiated as a result of the market response to the enterprise peering solution in June. "With our global MPLS network, our goal really is to leverage our VoIP footprint and keep as many of the calls IP end-to-end as we can," he says.

It's less a new product, Smith notes, than an enhancement of current offerings. "It's a value add to our suite of services," he says. "Both carriers and enterprises are getting into the VoIP space, and from our standpoint, this was something that we did that was unique and that we thought brought a lot of value to our services."

The benefits of the Community Peering service are relatively straightforward, in terms of both pricing and IP functionality. "If we can keep a call IP end-to-end on our network, we don't need to touch the PSTN. Not only are we providing value to our customers IP-wise but we're not paying access costs, and we can pass that savings on to our customer as well," Smith says.

The service enables carriers to offer a monthly recurring charge (MRC) pricing model rather than a per-minute model: Any call that remains on-net is usage-free; the customer only pays a flat monthly fee, with no per-minute charges. "We are trying to move our VoIP product suite to a flat rate MRC-based pricing model, and this is one of the first steps towards doing that," Smith says.

In-Stat analyst Bryan Van Dussen agrees with Smith's assessment of the benefits of the service. "Service providers that participate in Global Crossing's VoIP peering community gain feature transparency, end-to-end VoIP communications, and a predictable cost structure that mitigates usage-based access costs and service degradation associated with PSTN intermediation," he says.

There are a number of VoIP peering efforts in the marketplace, including Stealth Communications' Voice Peering Fabric among others—but Smith says his company intends to cooperate with, not compete with, those efforts. "Global Crossing is looking at the fabrics to see if there's a play for us there as well, but this is really to leverage the fact that we've got this global IP network, and we've got well over a million DIDs on our network already which we are beginning to expand through partnerships," he says.

The company recently announced one such partnership, with Internet phone service provider SunRocket. "It's a direct peering arrangement that the two companies agreed to enter into themselves, without the use of a fabric," he says. "What it will do for both companies is extend our on-net communities for our customer bases, so neither one of us in terminating calls to our analogous DID footprints need to touch the PSTN."

And Global Crossing's expectation, Smith says, is that the SunRocket announcement will be the first of many. "As we begin to look at bilateral agreements with other companies like SunRocket, we'll probably employ something else—whether it's ENUM or something else; we really haven't decided," he says. "There are pluses and minuses to all of the technologies you would use to create arrangements with external partners, so we're digging into that now and trying to make the best decision for us and for our partners."

It's a decision, Smith notes, that the industry as a whole is currently exploring. "I think that's the next step for everyone," he says. "I don't know that it's something Global Crossing will figure out by themselves, but we're just as interested in seeing an industry-wide solution there as everyone else—and we'll hopefully participate in driving that forward."

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