BT adds Ribbit cloud-phone service to Onevoice VPN

A beta version of Onevoice Ribbit will offer corporate customers cloud-based softphones, intelligent call routing and speech-to-text voicemail transcription
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT is set to launch Ribbit-based advanced voice services that will let businesses squeeze more functionality out of their existing Onevoice VPN systems.

A beta version of Onevoice Ribbit, announced on Tuesday, will be released to selected multinationals in the summer, with a full release scheduled for October or November. The service will embed functionality such as intelligent call routing and speech-to-text voicemail transcription — picked up when BT bought Ribbit two years ago — into BT Global Services' Onevoice VPN system.

The service will also make it possible for cloud-based Ribbit softphones to be used as originating or destination points for on-net calls in the VPN. As the browser-based phones become part of a company's telephone system, employees could use a hotel's Wi-Fi connection to make secure calls through the VPN, rather than using hotel phones or incurring mobile roaming charges.

"Delivering Ribbit to Onevoice customers enables them to start the journey to unified communications and accelerate the adoption of communications applications to the desktop," BT Global Services vice president Neil Sutton said in a statement.

The idea with Onevoice Ribbit is to help corporate customers drive more of their voice traffic on to VPN, thereby making the most of their Onevoice investment, according to Simon Farr, BT Global Services' head of unified communications and collaboration.

"When the customer has the Onevoice service, calls on the Onevoice network are inclusive of the cost of the VPN — they don't pay individual call costs," Farr told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

Users of Onevoice Ribbit will get a single phone number for all incoming and outgoing calls. This number can be directed to multiple devices, even so that they ring simultaneously if needed. Through an online portal, users can configure their devices, call forwarding rules and conference speed dials, and view call logs and manage passwords.

Ribbit's technology also allows voicemails to be viewed in text form on emails or SMS, through automated transcription — the email version comes with the recording attached in .WAV form.

According to Farr, the first beta version of Onevoice Ribbit introduces "entry-level functionality". Further IP telephony functionality will be rolled out in future, along with support for smartphones and tablets — devices such as the iPad "could be used to access the service in the future", he said.

Using Onevoice Ribbit on top of the standard Onevoice platform will incur an extra charge once the service is out of beta, Farr noted. The pricing is yet to be firmly established.

BT bought Mountain View-based Ribbit in July 2008 for $105m (£53m). Since then, BT has invited developers to create new services based on the technology, and Salesforce.com has integrated Ribbit's voice-to-text capabilities into its CRM system.

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