Telco: You make the call

A long distance company will announce a service that gives users control of conference calls, fax broadcasts, and voice mail with a Web browser.

Tech Industry

Next week, a long distance company will announce a service that gives users access and control of telephone conference calls, fax broadcasts, and voice mail with a Web browser.

The company, Premiere Technologies, is aiming its Orchestrate service at business users who want a single interface to manage all of their communications needs. According to company executives, Orchestrate will allow users to set up conference calls over the standard phone network simply by clicking on user names and hitting a Call button rather than having to dial an operator.

Besides the additional control over calls, the company says its service will save businesses money. It estimates that domestic conference calls will cost 25 cents a minute per person, compared to 38 cents to 50 cents a minute from most telephone companies.

Orchestrate will also allow users to send fax broadcasts and to check voice mail through their browsers using streamed RealAudio. An Orchestrate user will be able to broadcast a message to a group of people with the recipients' preferred communications medium, whether email, pager, or fax, company officials said.

Premiere Technologies is entering beta testing on the service this month and will roll out Orchestrate in the first quarter of 1997. A demonstration of Orchestrate is available on the company's Web site.

With Orchestrate, Premiere provides all of the back-end integration between Web servers and its telecommunications equipment. The company says it plans to resell Orchestrate to a number of online providers such as CompuServe that will brand the service and offer it to its own customers.

According to analysts, the service could be a hit for business users that want a single method for handling email, faxes, and conference calls.

"Everybody understands the telephone," said Traver Kennedy, director of wide area network research worldwide for the Aberdeen Group. "If you bring that same kind of uniform interface to the computer through a browser, I think you enhance its utility."

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