BT, Microsoft and Siemens are working on an open network interface to let businesses control how they receive voice and data, instead of that control resting with the service provider.
Until now, access to the technology required for services like call waiting and call divert has been the exclusive domain of the telephone network operators. These are all mass market products or one-size-fits-all applications.
The new interface specification, which will be published as an open API, is intended to allow a wide range of new communications services to be built outside the traditional boundaries of the network. Thanks to Microsoft's involvement, the technology is expected to be built into the NT operating system at an unspecified date.
The group, which also includes Nortel and DGM&S Telecom, claims it will allow companies to configure their communications systems on a per-call basis and from the desktop, to suit the individual environment.
For example, BT claims the user will be able to specifiy whether an incoming call diverts to Email, fax or mobile phone, depending on who the caller is. It will be possible to configure this on a call by call basis.
"At the moment, companies that want to put together networking have no flexibility," explained Bob Pike, director of business at Microsoft. "This API will enable the user to customise communications services from within the company."
Mike Carr, director of BT's technology strategy unit, said: "The objective of the specification is to allow access to core network functions while ensuring the network's integrity."
However, BT and Microsoft were unable to suggest any new applications that could be written to this specification. Both are hoping that other telecoms companies, software vendors and systems providers will write software for it, much like the Windows platform.
The working group plans to release the first version of the specification later this year. Nortel will provide the systems integration, Siemens the switching, BT will be the dominant telco and Microsoft the incumbent software vendor. DGM&S Telcom is providing real time signalling expertise.
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