In our opinion, Equant has done the best job to date developing and launching enterprise VoIP VPN solutions.
We believe six reasons account for Equant’s success:
Product Strategy and Trajectory
- 1.Scalable architecture: Equant commissioned HP to integrate and develop its VoIP VPN platform. Working in partnership with NetCentrex, Cisco, and Atos Origin, HP integrated and deployed a softswitch platform, VPN service logic, and extensive service management and reporting capabilities. HP is an industry leader in the design, deployment and management of telecommunications infrastructure (it understands, for example, the complexities of network signaling and control as well as the telephone companies). In addition to providing VPN features, the platform supports call center and IVR functionality. The architecture reduces router programming and centralizes management of key voice VPN features (see Exhibit 1).
- 2.Feature functionality: Exhibit 1 contains a list of the features and functions supported by Equant’s VoIP for IP VPN. Many are obscure legacy-voice features (recalling voice VPNs such as AT&T’s Software Defined Network), but they remain vital to large corporate voice network capabilities.
- 3.Standards support: In addition to providing SIP and H.323 support, Equant supports traditional PBX standards such as Q.SIG, E&M signaling, foreign exchange interfaces, ISDN, and more. Because many companies deploy VoIP in phases, requiring interoperability between legacy and new standards will be important for many VoIP users.
- 4.Performance monitoring and telephony SLAs: Equant’s VoIP for IP VPN service offers customers near real-time reporting of key telephony performance metrics and network usage. Equant’s SLAs include traditional telephony SLAs like post-dial delay, mean-opinion score, and call- completion ratios. Customers can also obtain from Equant’s Web portal call detail records and other management reports necessary to allocate costs to cost centers or make engineering changes.
- 5.Design, build, integrate, test and management services: Our research shows network managers remain unsure about VoIP and fear the risk of convergence (at least on a large scale). Equant offers a range of design, build and operate services to help customers assess its economics, test and validate designs, and project-manage its deployment. It also offers a range of on-going managed services.
- 6.Holistic approach: Equant’s VoIP solutions also include managed IP LAN and IP PBX solutions. Unlike some service providers whose VoIP solutions stop short at traditional service demarcations, Equant understands that successful VoIP solutions require careful engineering and integration across the LAN and the WAN.
Equant launched an MPLS-based class of service VoIP solution in 2000 (the HP-built service was launched in January 2002), so its has had 4 years to refine its service offering, incorporate additional capabilities, and expand its portfolio. By comparison, most U.S. carriers won’t launch their enterprise VoIP VPN services until the end of this year. AT&T doesn’t plan to launch its VoIP SDN capabilities until Q1 2005.
This is not meant as a knock on AT&T and other U.S. carriers. Indeed, we think the U.S. market is in the early adopter stage, kicking VoIP’s tires, conducting small trials, and budgeting for small installations (see VoIP in the WAN, Part 2: Carrier-Managed VoIP Services). Thus, their VoIP roadmaps may be appropriate.
However, Equant is a global carrier focused on providing international solutions; and because international networks tend to cost more than domestic ones, multinational companies will adopt VoIP and other converged solutions quickly.
Further, Equant does not have the legacy voice assets of traditional wireline carriers (it has a few circuit switches, but not of the same scale and proportion as the top U.S. carriers), so it has been able to move quickly and with little risk to existing revenues.
In addition to offering traditional telephony features and capabilities, Equant’s VoIP for IP VPN also supports call center capabilities such IVR, inbound call routing, and ACD integration.
The company has not yet certified its service with Nortel, Avaya or Alcatel, but plans to by the ends of Q2, Q3 and Q4 respectively. Aside from this shortcoming, the company needs to make all of its voice SLAs, including MOS, PDD, and CCR SLAs available via its Web portal.
Finally, we are not privy to the company’s IP VPN pricing, which is key to determining VoIP TCO, but we have heard anecdotal references from customers that it’s expensive, particularly its voice Ro QoS class of service (its off-net pricing seems high, too, which could hurt the TCO of companies that have lots of off-net international calling).
- Continue work on developing applications. The value of today’s VoIP VPN will ultimately wane, just as traditional voice VPN services did. Managed services will give way to DIY and sharp pricing. Thus, in the longer run, value-added applications would be key to sustaining revenues and margins (mobility and wireless solutions perhaps).
- Explore the case for offering VoIP VPN services. VoIP VPN services will offer an additional revenue stream and provide customers with an additional choice, particularly in cases where customers elect to manage their own LAN telephony environments, but not the WAN and QoS environment.
The Yankee Group originally published this article on 4 May 2004.
- Consider VoIP VPN solutions if you have many locations and currently use voice VPN features. Equant is in the best position today, particularly if you have many international locations, but the capabilities will be replicated by most carriers (some companies call their services IP Centrex, so don’t be confused; they’re the same thing as VoIP VPNs).