Microsoft Partners With Qwest To Deliver VoIP To SMBs

At the Fall VON 2005 conference in Boston Tuesday, Microsoft said it is jumping into the hosted VoIP arena through a new partnership with Qwest Communications International that will create a suite of services aimed at the SMB market.

Avaya, meanwhile, is teaming with Sprint to develop and deliver hosted VoIP services to North American businesses, while AOL said it is launching VoIP services for consumers.

The new Microsoft partnership combines the vendor&s Solution for Enhanced VoIP Services with Denver-based Qwest&s OneFlex VoIP services to create a bundle of VoIP, e-mail, Internet access, collaboration, presence, IM and desktop services, the companies said.

Microsoft already offers hosted versions of its applications and Microsoft TV video services through service providers. The missing piece was hosted voice services, said Michael O&Hara, general manager of service provider business at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.

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The two companies are now working to develop a channel strategy and training efforts around the service suite, which is expected to debut in early 2006, O&Hara said.

“Working through channels to bring these services to market will be key,” he said.

The Microsoft Solution for Enhanced VoIP Services is comprised of hosted version of several products, including Exchange Server 2003, Office Live Communications Server 2005 and Windows SharePoint Services with Sylantro Systems& Application Feature Server.

The end result of combining Microsoft&s technology with hosted VoIP services is that SMB customers can deploy VoIP without investing in on-premise infrastructure, he said.

Through Office Communicator, Microsoft&s enterprise IM client, customers can view the presence of other users and initiate phone calls to them, tapping data from Outlook calendars and contact lists. Calls can also be launched via Microsoft&s other desktop applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Pricing for the new services has not yet been disclosed.

Qwest is the first service provider to integrate Microsoft&s Solution for Enhanced VoIP Services. Others will likely follow, O&Hara said.

Also at the conference, Basking Ridge, NJ-based Avaya and Sprint said they are teaming to integrate Avaya&s IP communications technology with hosted VoIP services.

The first offering, Sprint Hosted Messaging, should be available in the fourth quarter, followed in 2006 by Hosted IP Telephony and Wireless Integration. Only after a complete services bundle has hit the market will Sprint open the new offerings to channel partners, said Kent Turner, group manager of advanced voice solutions at Sprint, Overland Park, KS.

AOL Tuesday also said it is prepping the launch of its consumer-focused TotalTalk VoIP services on October 4.