Avaya, Skype in deal to offer low-cost, IP-based calling

Skype users would be able to reach a company using Avaya gear for free or at low cost

Avaya and Skype signed an agreement Wednesday to offer Skype Connect to Avaya customers to help them lower international voice-calling costs through IP-based calls.

Avaya and Skype also plan to deliver a wider range of communications and collaboration capabilities for large businesses, helping Avaya end users and Skype users connect with presence technology, instant messaging, voice and videoconferencing. The companies said such a service would be an efficient way for a company call center to resolve customer service inquiries. These services would be offered in the second phase of the agreement, beginning in the last half of 2011.

Alan Baratz, senior vice president of Avaya, said the agreement will offer customers a common user experience. Skype's David Gurle, general manager of Skype for Business, said the relationship with Avaya will help expand Skype Connect's footprint into more large U.S. businesses.

The first phase will bring Skype calling to IP-based enterprise communications systems running Avaya gear. A Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) channel will be set up between customers with Avaya Aura Session Manager or SIP Enablement Server, CS 1000, IP Office or BCM systems. Those Avaya customers will use Skype Connect to make international calls at lower cost, while getting enterprise-level security features in the Avaya systems.

Skype users globally will be able to make inbound calls to Avaya customers in the U.S. market for free or at low cost, and the Avaya gear will add a variety of features for collaboration. A business, for example, could add a Skype Click & Call button to its Web site for a customer to make a call to a customer care center.

Small- and medium-size business customers already using Avaya IP Office should be "very excited about getting access to Skype," said Steve Hilton, an analyst at Analysys Mason. "It will help them save money on international calling and get access to Webcam-style video communications integrated with their Avaya phone systems."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said the partnership between Skype and Avaya should enhance the value of the coming Avaya Desktop Video Device and its Flare user interface. "This partnership would open up Skype presence information and voice over IP to be displayed and used by the Flare tablet," Kerravala said.

Avaya will also gain greater credibility as an IP switching vendor with the Skype agreement, Kerravala said. "With Cisco having such a huge palette of unified communications [systems], Avaya can gain credibility through its partnerships," he said.

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