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<p>For those who care, it will be in Orlando, so come on down and make a vacation out of it.  I am hopeful that I will have my Super Bowl moment: A successful CFI, followed by a trip to Disney World!  </p>

A. The marriage of IVR technology and powerful voice recognition software has brought about a change in caller acceptance of IVR, and in callers' willingness to pursue self-service. Two applications come to mind. In the first example, customers call to determine their payoff” number for a car loan. The caller uses voice to respond to IVR system prompts, which include speaking such specifics as the loan number. The system takes the information from the caller, looks up the loan, and reports back the exact amount still due on the loan. In the second example, calls to a department store call center prompt callers to indicate the department they'd like to reach where they can inquire about products in stock. In this case, the caller tells the IVR system what they are shopping for, and the system routes the caller to the correct department where he or she can have a discussion with a specialist.

Pilot pricing, not yet settled, is on cellular model: a retail $49.95 per month per desk for 1,000 minutes of calling, a 30-minute voicemail store, and 2MB of fax mail. Extra voicemail minutes, meeting minutes, fax mail minutes, and (maybe) videoconferencing are planned as add-on packages. According to GoBeam's calculations, that's about a 50% savings per desktop over plain phone service alone.

-Ellen Muraskin

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Barriers To Entry: QoS And NAT Issues

One thing that could quickly kill IP Centrex, or at least cause it to suffer setbacks, is poor quality of service. While most vendors and service providers claim to have the QoS issue under control, the reality is that guaranteed quality for realtime IP applications still has not been proven out in the local loop. Particularly in cases where service providers are talking about bundling Centrex with other IP-based applications, there is a need for QoS methods that can simultaneously preserve bandwidth efficiency (i.e., not require dedicated virtual circuits) and enforce policies and prioritization on a per-IP-flow basis.

Natural Microsystems(Framingham, MA – 508-620-9300) has proposed one possible solution to this problem with its PolicyPoint technology. PolicyPoint would integrate with a router (either as its own standalone, Ethernet-connected box, or possibly embedded in the router itself) on the customer premise to implement classification, metering, and traffic-shaping capabilities on individual packet flows as they enter and leave the enterprise. In a hosted services environment, the ASP or carrier providing the applications would also manage the customer's routing policies, so as to guarantee different levels of service according to the type of application being delivered.

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Until now,” says Brough Turner, chief technology officer for NMS, there has been a heavy focus on quality of service for the network backbone, through technologies like MPLS, but those efforts extend only from the backbone to the edge. As you start to move into things like IP Centrex, the question becomes how to manage services going into and out of the enterprise? There are plenty of solutions for the backbone and the local area network, but it's the segment between the enterprise and the wide area – where you typically have a frame relay, fractional T-1, or T-1 connection – that causes the biggest bottleneck. Unless you can provide some sort of QoS or IP managed service capability on that access link, without provisioning separate paths for voice and data, you're going to be stuck with the old world of services.”

PolicyPoint can use other QoS mechanisms, like TOS bits or the DiffServ field, to classify packets, along with their source and destination addresses and TCP or UDP ports. The system can also allocate bandwidth dynamically in response to a particular application's class of service and demands. Eventually, packets would reach an ATM or MPLS network, where the PolicyPoint classifications would be mapped onto a virtual circuit, or a label switched path.

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While Turner is optimistic overall about the prospects for IP Centrex, he cautions that QoS considerations such as these, on the access leg of the network, are something that anyone designing equipment or building a network needs to consider. Another important issue, he notes, is how IP Centrex will be able to interact with firewalls and Network Address Translators (NAT). At the moment, it's difficult to get a business quality VoIP service like IP Centrex to support a NAT, and in most cases the endpoints typically require visible IP addresses to communicate back to the softswitch. With a NAT, you wouldn't necessarily know how to route an incoming call to a particular extension, since that extension's IP address is hidden behind the firewall. It is possible, in some cases, to open a pinhole” in the firewall, allowing certain types of traffic to pass through and find their destination, but there is no standard way of doing this. Such a standard will hopefully be forthcoming, so that no special manipulation of a regular enterprise firewall will be necessary to allow for VoIP traffic.

Solectron Corp. today said it completed the acquisition of Sony Corp.'s facility in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, as part of a broader agreement announced by the companies in October 2000.

Combine it with a backup radio link to cover the 1% of the time when there's too much fog for laser transmission, Penner says, and you've got a wireless link with five-nines reliability.

SONAbeam, as the system is called, operates at the 1550 nanometer wavelength, which is eye-safe at power levels over 50 times higher than most free-space competitors. You can point it through windows, too, so this is what you want if your landlord won't let you mount equipment on your roof. One other vendor using 1550 nanometer lasers is Terabeam (Seattle, WA – 888-372-2326).

The OC-3 SONAbeam will be generally available beginning next month. Coming later this year is a shorter haul (500-meter) version priced at about $12,500 for both ends of the link.

Enter 301 at www.computertelephony.com/productinfo

Siebel's Data Mining Picks And Shovels

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Until now,” says Brough Turner, chief technology officer for NMS, there has been a heavy focus on quality of service for the network backbone, through technologies like MPLS, but those efforts extend only from the backbone to the edge. As you start to move into things like IP Centrex, the question becomes how to manage services going into and out of the enterprise? There are plenty of solutions for the backbone and the local area network, but it's the segment between the enterprise and the wide area – where you typically have a frame relay, fractional T-1, or T-1 connection – that causes the biggest bottleneck. Unless you can provide some sort of QoS or IP managed service capability on that access link, without provisioning separate paths for voice and data, you're going to be stuck with the old world of services.”

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