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Optical/IP

Qwest, Cisco Deliver Hosted UC Offering

Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) today unveiled a new hosted unified communications (UC) service that's designed to let enterprise customers move into an all-IP environment for voice, data, and video without major capital expenses.

The Qwest iQ Hosted Unified Communications Service (HUCS), based on Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) technology, uses a multi-tenant version of Cisco's Call Manager to offer VoIP and UC features such as integrated messaging, while also giving customers an easier way to manage their own voice services and systems.

"Instead of having Call Manager equipment deployed on the customer's premises to provide the voice functionality and Unified Communications capabilities, now we can create that platform inside the network and sell it to customers as a service model," says Eric Bozich, vice president of Qwest Product Management.

Qwest also today announced Arizona State University (ASU) as the first customer for the iQ HUCs offering, which is ideally suited to enterprise customers with more than 200 employees and multiple locations, Bozich says.

"ASU is an example of the kind of customer that this is ideal for, with thousands of end users and a campus environment and a lot of things that that type of environment brings with it," Bozich says. "They are not upgrading every phone at once. This approach is very scalable for that type of large complex customer."

Qwest has been selling a managed VoIP solution with premises-based technology and has built a practice around that, he says, but can now add a network-based service that can be easier to deploy because it doesn't require new equipment to be deployed at each customer site. Enterprises can integrate existing phone systems, including mobile phones and smartphones, into the iQ HUCS offering.

"From the customer perspective, we can deploy this much faster," Bozich says. "The core technology is already there in the network, and it just becomes a matter of customizing the service to what the customer wants."

The hosted environment includes back-office systems that can be partitioned and exposed to each customer through a simple interface that enables customers, if they want, to manage things such as moves, adds, and changes, Bozich adds. Qwest can also manage those operations for the customer, using a trouble ticket system.

The service is available across Qwest's national service footprint. Bozich expects iQ HUCS to be both an additional selling point for existing Qwest customers and an entry point for companies that may be buying Qwest data offerings or be new to Qwest.

"For companies which have been doing their own UC solutions based on cobbling together their own solutions, this can be a ticket to play," Bozich says. "We are certainly early to market with this."

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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