The humble answering machine will become obsolete as telcos begin to offer more advanced voicemail services that will eventually enable users to forward messages to friends around the world.
While Intelligent Networking (IN) software on switches currently enables carriers to offer such services as toll free calling and calling cards, more advanced services such as international messaging will start being rolled out by the beginning of next year, according to industry analysts, Cahners In Stat.
Consumers will be able to do simple tasks, from checking and making calls out of their voicemail boxes to zipping recorded messages around the world. They will also automatically be able to return to mailboxes if the number dialled is engaged or they have finished their conversation.
Brian Strachman, an analyst at Cahners, said that the US market for INM systems will exceed $1 billion by 2003, with telcomms equipment vendor Lucent, leading the pack. Lucent is expected to ship products during the second half of this year, with new entrants starting to roll out services to consumers by 2000. Services from encumbent telcos will follow later.
But there is a danger that some telcos may resist introducing these type of services, particularly if it means integrating with other carriers to forward messaging nationally or internationally, while the cost of setting them up may also be prohibitive.
Strachman said: "Telecommunications is a very slow moving industry and it is very expensive for carriers to offer premium services over regular voicemail services."
But he added that there were industry groups, such as the Telemessaging Industry Association (TMIA), which is run by carriers and equipment vendors, that are addressing the political issues between competitive carriers and this could speed up the process.
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