Verizon Business rolls out VoIP enhancements

Verizon's Integrated Communications Package upgrades its VoIP offering with access to e-mail, calendar synchronization, and fully managed voice communication

Verizon Communications' Business unit will launch a VoIP service for customers of its Hosted IP Centrex package that will give users access to new features like text messaging and calendar synchronization.

Verizon Business' Integrated Communications Package is targeted at businesses and government agencies whose employees want more collaboration and mobility functionality with their VoIP phones, Verizon said. The package is designed to reduce the time and effort needed to connect employees, the company said.

The package allows users to access voice e-mail, control incoming and outgoing calls, manage their online presence, send text messages, and synchronize contacts and calendars, Verizon said.

"The major advantage ... is the ability for an employee to manage communications wherever they are, and whenever they'd like," said Jeff Cayer, group manager of VoIP marketing for Verizon Business. "An end-user is given the control to determine who can reach them, when they can be reached, and how."

The software includes administrator and user point-and-click interfaces allowing employees to access and manage their office phones, e-mail, Lotus Sametime instant messaging, and voice mail. The services can be used on a Web-based interface or run in conjunction with a stand-alone desktop client and Microsoft Outlook plugin. The administrative console provides a Web-based tool for near real-time service control and management, Verizon said.

"Every day we are bombarded with e-mails, text messages, calls to our cell phones, calls at work and at home," Cayer said. "With Integrated Communications Package, we are empowering end-users to take some control back."

Integrated Communications Package will be available beginning next month to U.S. customers of Verizon's Hosted IP Centrex, an enterprise VoIP service Verizon hosts and manages. Verizon plans to expand the service internationally later this year. Verizon Business also plans to integrate the service with its audio, net and video conferencing services and contact center services.

Some consumer VoIP services already offer similar features, and Verizon Business has offered a GUI that allowed for some call control and feature management, Cayer said. "However, we were not able to give users access to calendars and text messaging," he said. "Our focus, though, was to first build the network and platform to offer scalability and enterprise-level features. Once that foundation was set, we were then able to enhance some of the end-user capabilities."

One analyst praised Verizon's new package. "As businesses deal with more mobile and remote employees, the need for a product that provides phone, e-mail, calendaring, messaging, and presence capabilities will be on their list of must-haves to further enable collaboration," Will Stofega, research manager for VoIP Services with IDC, said in a statement. "This offering is a good start, delivering a user-friendly platform to help enhance a company's VoIP investment."

An intermediate level of the Integrated Communications Package starts at $5.50 per user per month, and an advanced service including Microsoft Office plug-ins and real-time call management will be $7.50, Cayer said.