Leading Network companies 3Com, Lucent and Netspeak have announced separate technologies which they claim blur the lines between voice, video and data traffic and attempt to increase the flexibility of e-commerce.
Following a similar announcement by Cisco, 3Com has outlined a three-phase strategy to enhance traditional data networks to the point where they can take on the additional tasks of delivering time-sensitive fax, voice and video traffic.
The first stage of the plan is already under way with the addition of voice-over-Internet Protocol capabilities to 3Com?s Total Control remote access equipment.
Stage two involves adding intelligence to the data network, so it can absorb more sophisticated telephony functions such as those performed by a private exchange (PBX) device.
The final phase, which 3Com will implement in the next year, will involve integrating a corporation?s voice, video and data networking. The company?s eventual goal is to create a multi-service network in which the functions of discrete boxes such as PBXs, voice-mail systems and interactive voice-response systems, would be integrated into data networking equipment.
NetSpeak has introduced the ITEL Call Center, which the company claims will unite telephone and web based commerce. The Call Center is designed to voice-enable any Web site and allow sales or service staff to speak to customers over the Internet.
?By combining rich Web site content with interactive personnel service, businesses can improve customer satisfaction, speed up sales cycles, leverage Web marketing investments and lower the cost of doing business.? said Lori Fratilla, product marketing manager at Netspeak.
The system - available now for $18,650 for five licences - consists of a call routing server, an IP address resolution server, a directory and Mini WebPhone. The end-user can download the web-phone software and speak to a sales person over IP.
The company also claims that IP telephony software allows sales staff to be scattered in different locations - or even at home.
So-called "virtual" call centres can be created since voice connections are IP based, staff can be set up at remote facilities using a standard Internet connection. Agents simply dial into ITEL Call Center and immediately go on-line with full active status, receiving call as if they were in a main call centre.
?Virtual call centres will allow companies to ship customers around. If its getting late on the East coast a company can utilise sales staff on the West coast to handle the calls,? said Harvey Kauffman, executive vice-president of NetSpeak.
Lucent Technologies has unveiled a Virtual phone, designed to allow mobile workers to manage voice and data communications on their PCs or laptops simultaneously over one phone line.
Virtual Phone requires a PC or Laptop with a full-duplex sound card, Microsoft Netmeeting 2.1, a modem, a high-quality headset, and Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0. It supports Lucent?s Internet Telephony Server-E (ITS-E), an H.323- compatible standards-based gateway that enables customers to make voice and fax calls over the Internet.
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