In an effort to mine a new niche beyond its usual data-networking market, Internet service provider PSINet today rolled out a new suite of voice-over-Internet protocol services for large corporate customers.
PSIVoice, a set of voice-over-IP services for making phone calls using the Internet, challenges traditional phone line services by offering cheaper calls over the Web, the company claims.
The company said the services are targeted at large companies looking to shave their long-distance telephone costs.
The suite is made up of three separate services. Due to ship today, the iPEnterprise component is a service that provides companies with private branch exchanges, or internal corporate phone networks, that supply voice services for a flat-rate price, the company said.
"iPEnterprise is designed for companies with branch offices, especially those that are growing rapidly or operate widely dispersed geographic locations. These customers need to lower their internal communications costs in order to compete globally," Pete Wills, PSINet's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.
iPEnterprise Plus will add voice communication to corporate extranets. PSINet's business customers will be able to share dialing codes and other features such as faxing, conference calling, and unified, or universal, messaging services, the company said.
The final service of the suite is iPGlobal which will offer voice-over-IP services to the consumer market next year, once the company establishes the new product in the enterprise markets.
PSINet plans to deploy gateways throughout its network to implement the iPGlobal service and interconnect with the public switched network.
Using IP--the dominant transmission method for the Net--for voice calls has several benefits, most notably cost reductions gained by using residential settings.
But the biggest stumbling block for voice-over-IP services so far has been sound quality, which currently lags traditional telephony services. ISPs and telephony providers are developing IP-based techology to help improve the clarity of calls made over the Internet.
Various market researchers have pegged the market for hardware, software, and services that take advantage of cheaper IP-based voice transmissions for huge growth. International Data Corporation predicts a $20.5 billion opportunity for carriers in the IP telephony space by the year 2002.