Banking on IP telephony

For several years the IT industry has talked about telecommunications network convergence as a Holy Grail. Last year some companies began reaching for it.

One of them was BCS Global Networks Inc., a Mississauga, Ont. -based provider of managed IP video services to small and medium businesses,

which is banking on a recent acquisition to boost its sales.

The four-year-old company has been struggling. After three years of operations, revenue for the first six months of 2004 was $649,000, significantly up from the same period in 2003. Still, the publicly-traded company posted a net loss of $960,000 for the period — an improvement over the $1.3 million it lost in the first six months of 2003.

What may help improve the balance sheet is an acquisition it made in August of a Richmond Hill, Ont. company called IPConvergence, which specializes in delivering IP telephony solutions to customers through service providers.

Virtual presence

It wasn’t long before BCS got a chance to offer customers the opportunity to take advantage of its new product.

At the time it was supplying its Virtual Presence video service to Norshield Financial Group, a Montreal-based money manager and investment consultant with offices in Toronto, Chicago and Barbados. Video conferencing is handy for staff members in the three countries to talk about high finance without the cost of meeting in the same city.

Then came an opening: Norshield was moving offices in Chicago in September. BCS suggested they take advantage and install IP-based telephones utilizing the video network it was already providing.

The alternatives

“”Despite the fact that it might have been a little bit of a cutting edge step to take, [the moves] really did set the timing,”” said Matthew Smith, Norshield’s information and technology co-ordinator. “”We had to look into acquiring new phone systems anyway. So we did the research and worked it out.””

“”They looked at some alternatives to bringing in voice-over-IP,”” recalled Dan Tanel, BCS’s chief technology officer, “”and we were able to offer them over the same network a voice-service which they felt to be compelling because they would deal with only one provider.””

“”They were also moving their Toronto office to a new facility, so it made sense to bring voice-over IP there and leverage a back-end common infrastructure the two cities could use.””

“”The customer doesn’t have to invest in a phone cabling system,”” he points out. “”They can leverage what they’re using for the data network.””

Despite the border, the Chicago installation appeared to be relatively simple: a dozen IP-based phones together with an in-line powered switch had to be plugged in to the new office network, while BCS’s back end had to be provisioned to support the telephony requirements such as the local dial plan and voice-mail options.

BCS recommended phones from Cisco Systems, a preferred supplier, which were bought through Compugen Inc. of Richmond Hill, Ont. A BCS project manager and technician configured and tested the phones here before they were shipped across the border.

The paper work

That proved to be one of the few stumbling blocks. For some reason the paper work got held up, delaying delivery.

“”It didn’t get through as fast as we were hoping,”” Tanel says diplomatically, “”so we had to stay on top of it.”” Fortunately, time was built into the schedule to cover such eventualities.

Once there, Smith oversaw installation. From the time BCS got the order to the time the system was lit took four weeks.

Meanwhile in Toronto the same thing was happening at Norshield’s office there. As we went to press installation of eight more phones was wrapping up in Barbados.

Smith is pleased with the way BCS handled the project. And Norshield is pleased that in Barbados alone the new system will save $15,000 a year.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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