Skype for SIP Emerges from ‘Limited’ Beta

This spring, Web-based VoIP service provider Skype unveiled a new initiative that it said would allow businesses to place and receive domestic and international calls at Skype’s low calling rates.

Announced initially as a limited beta offering, Skype for SIP would forge connections between Skype’s global phone network and businesses with certain IP PBX systems.

The company now is declaring success in the limited beta and has opened up a public testing phase. Skype for SIP best is compatible with ShoreTel, SIPFoundry, and Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series systems.

The initial release “allowed us to work very closely with our OEM PBX manufacturers who are integral to this, to work out all the technical glitches that come out in a beta and to test across multiple platforms across the globe,” Matt Jordan, enterprise business development manager for Skype for Business told Enterprise VoIPplanet..

The limited beta drew businesses from single users to Fortune 500 companies, Jordan said. Some 10,000 companies joined the queue, of which roughly 60 enterprises were invited to join the test phase, with some 1,000 trunks in concurrent use. Now the newly scaled-up, open beta should accommodate all those 10,000 aspiring users and more.

Skype expects its Skype for SIP offering be to be out of beta and into full commercial release by early 2010, Jordan said. He noted that session border control providers Ingate Systems and Acme Packet are also involved in the effort to globalize Skype for SIP.

“This [limited beta] was just the first step to make sure it was stable, scalable, globally available and easy to use,” Jordan said. Ease of use in particular was set as a benchmark of a successful trial run.

“One of the things that has been key to the success of Skype is that it is so darned easy, even a grandmother can use it, even a CEO can use it,” he said. “People pick up the phone at their desk, the calls goes out and they don’t know they are using Skype for SIP. They just know they are making a phone call.”

Functionality is managed through a do-it-yourself business control panel web portal.

Skype has put out a case study it says demonstrates the early success of Skype for SIP. It points to the experience of Maxim Integrated Products, a Fortune 1000 company that designs, manufactures, and sells high performance semiconductor products.

Maxim has deployed Skype’s desktop software to more than 2,000 employees in 70 locations around the world, in a program that supplements its existing PBX systems. That effort saved the company “hundreds of thousands of dollars on long distance calling,” Skype reports, thus avoiding a multi-million dollar upgrade of its aging legacy PBX

Maxim has now rolled out a trial of Skype for SIP using a ShoreTel PBX in its Dallas
office, which is configured to use 22 concurrent channels for domestic calling. Maxim CIO Walter Curd said in a release that the deployment “has already turned Maxim into more of a real-time organization where we get our work done better, faster, and cheaper.”

There have been small hiccups on the road to producing such positive experiences. Jordan noted that the fragmented SIP landscape in particular has been a hurdle.

“Even though it is ‘Skype for SIP’ and SIP is a standard protocol, everyone has their own flavor of SIP,” he said. Between SBC providers, SIP gateways, and hardware providers, “everyone does SIP a little bit differently, so it did take some time in beta to make sure we had the widest interoperability.”

In the present beta test, Skype for SIP costs $6.95 per concurrent call with the capacity for up to 300 concurrent calls.

As the program expands, Skype also is developing a third-party certification so that all suppliers in the equation can be working to the same set of expectations.

Moving forward, Jordan said, Skype will be looking to industry verticals as the most likely moneymakers in the Skype for SIP program. The hotel and travel industry will be a natural target, he said, as will educational institutions, which may look toward Skype to SIP as a tool to enhance distance learning.

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