For hosted voice service providers and mobile network and fixed-line operators, BT’s launch of a major global IP exchange (GIPX) hub in Singapore could be good news. Set up to meet the demand for growing traffic over its IP Exchange platform, this is the third announcement I’ve seen from telcos in this region in the space of two months — the others being Telstra Global Services and Tata Communications.
BT’s wholesale service enables communications providers to connect VoIP to VoIP and VoIP to traditional voice calls, and runs over its MPLS network — i.e., a private IP network.
I spoke with Beatriz Butsana-Sita, managing director of BT Global Services and Global Telecom Markets, who explained that delivering the GIPX service closer to BT’s wholesale customers in this region serves to minimize their cost to interconnect to BT’s clearinghouse. “GIPX also provides an opening into BT’s platform for advanced IP services that we continue to invest in,” she said.
The telco is also working on a number of developments to further expand the service, such as the ability to support mobile 4G and provide video interoperability between different devices and networks.
The BT GIPX Singapore hub:
Provides a local switch function in the Asia Pacific region. This brings BT’s GIPX service closer to customers’ networks.
Acts as a multiservice GIPX point of presence (PoP). This helps address the growing demand for interconnect services in the region. The services that benefit from and are supported by GIPX include fixed and mobile voice (at a range of qualities, e.g., high-definition voice); fixed, mobile, and wireless data; roaming services; and videoconferencing.
Today, Cisco unveiled its home telepresence solution called Umi (prounounced you-me, get it?). For those of us who aren't familiar with Cisco's use of the term telepresence, it's a term it coined to describe the very impressive (and very expensive) enterprise immersive videoconferencing experience it provides to businesses around the world. In the home, it basically means TV-based videoconferencing.
The home offering is similar to the enterprise version in two key ways -- it is also impressive and expensive. Starting November 14, affluent consumers who really want to connect with family across great distances (and who are either unaware of or uninterested in Skype) can put down $599 and sign up for a $24.99 monthly Umi service fee and become HD videoconferencers. I tried the system in a real home and I'll admit the quality is eye-opening. As is the price. Read more of the details here in this post from CNET, but some of the less obvious points include: video voicemail, video voicegreetings, and the ability to record video messages when not connected to someone else. The camera rests above your TV screen and makes for one of the most believable videoconference setups I've seen (the person you speak to actually appears to be looking at you, imagine that). The whole experience rides on top of the existing video input so that while you watch TV you can see a message indicating a call is coming in. Choose not to take it and it will go to video voicemail. There are nice touches like a privacy-minded sliding shutter over the camera (complete with "shooshing" noise when the shutter closes) that helps you know via the senses of sight and sound that your camera is not on. So go ahead and give the missus a kiss while on the couch, no one is looking.