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Japan's NTT Joins Internet Telephony Campaign

Japanese telecommunications operator NTT has entered an elite alliance of major telecom operators co-operating to promote Internet telephony.

NTT's new international subsidiary is joining a four-way group of carriers and Internet telephony service providers to create a global network of communications links between each members' private Internet telephony network.

The other three members of the alliance are Inter-Tel, an American company that supplies voice over Internet services as well as equipment and software; Swedish Internet telephony service provider Glocalnet, which is establishing gateways in a number of European countries; and Telba, an Argentinian-Brazilian carrier.

NTT International will be installing about 100 of Inter-Tel's gateways, called Vocal'Net, over the next few months all across Japan. It already has gateways in Tokyo and Osaka, covering a population of around 35 million. Telba is planning 300 gateways across South America, while Glocalnet is planning points of presence in London, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Brussels, and Milan.

The alliance's plans also extend, according to Inter-Tel chairman and CEO Steven Mihaylo, to servers established in the offices of large corporate clients. This, he explained, would expand the network and take the weight off the public gateways.

Other established players in the market such as the Global Roaming Internet Connectivity Alliance are also working toward partnerships and alliances to ensure their networks achieve maximum coverage. Meanwhile, dominant operators like Germany's Deutsche Telekom and America's AT&T, are already running their own tests and trials of global voice over Internet services.

But Stefan Krook, Glocalnet's president, said the four partners were not looking to build an open-ended list of worldwide partners. Instead, he said, the four founding members would each take a regional responsibility for building their own gateways and establishing deals with local Internet telephony service providers.

The idea of using hundreds of Internet providers would not work, Krook said, because the future of Internet protocol-based services was in value-added services, not just voice services. "We want a maximum of seven to 10 members, to keep it tight when agreeing strategies and services," he said.

If you look at the current situation over a two-year period, the option of selling cheap minutes will disappear as international tariffs plummet, Krook said, adding that "the margins will come on value-added, and [Internet protocol] is best for that."

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Jeremy Scott-Joynt

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