Fiberlink, Skype team to offer VoIP

Fiberlink has inked deals with a handful of vendors to offer its customers VoIP, 3G wireless and anti-spyware options when traveling worldwide.

Fiberlink offers remote access services and client software to business users. The company is teaming with Skype and Webroot Software to offer new applications, access and security options.

For the first time Skype, which is best known as a peer-to-peer VoIP service provider for consumers, is teaming with a service provider that squarely focuses on enterprise users.

"This is a fairly significant announcement showing Skype is trying to get legitimate within the business world," says Michael Disabato, service director for network and telecom strategies at Burton Group.

Skype, which claims 38.2 million users, seems to be listening to analysts who point out that lack of security and corporate billing options will prevent more from signing on to the service, despite large cost savings.

According to a March report from Gartner, users who travel nine months a year could save more than US$14,000 annually by using Skype's service, which is free when calling another Skype user. The savings result from eliminating per-minute service rates for calls from overseas to the U.S., which typically are around US$2 per minute, according to Gartner. But users should keep in mind if they make calls from their Skype client to users on a traditional phone, they will not see the same cost savings because users do have to pay a per-minute rate for those off-net calls.

But in the same report Gartner says, "Skype needs to improve its support structure, which does not match corporate expectations." And that might be one of the reasons why it is now teaming with Fiberlink.

Fiberlink customers now will be able to make VoIP calls over the Internet using the service provider's secure client Extend360. Fiberlink customers will be able to make off-net calls and not worry about making PayPal payments for each call, which is the only way that Skype accepts payments today. Instead Fiberlink is offering corporate monthly billing for all off-net calls.

Fiberlink Extend360 customers are making calls behind a personal firewall running on their PC, which offers additional security.

This is another example where network managers don't have to manage another application themselves, but still gain some control over the application, Disabato says. Using Fiberlink's Extend360 client, IT managers should be able to set policies that limit the number of off-net calls a user can make per month, he says.

"Teaming with a provider that business users trust and have a relationship with already is a big step for us," says Kelly Larabee, a spokesperson for Skype. "Security is one of our favorite things about Fiberlink."

While Skype wouldn't say if it plans to team with other service providers, Larabee did say Skype is "looking to partner with world-class companies across a broad range of industries."

In addition to coupling easy-to-use, low-cost VoIP services with its client, Fiberlink also is offering wireless 3G data options. The carrier is teaming with an unnamed service provider to offer Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO) high-speed wireless data services to its customers. Fiberlink says it expects to name the service provider at a later date.

Disabato says it's likely that Fiberlink is teaming with Verizon Wireless because it has the most robust EV-DO deployment so far. But he points out that the service provider also could be Sprint, which uses Fiberlink's client for its remote access service offering.

EV-DO is a wireless data technology that supports average transmission speeds of about 300K to 500K bit/sec. The technology maxes out at about 2.4M bit/sec.

Fiberlink is offering EV-DO access as part of an overall bundle. Customers can get unlimited EV-DO, Wi-Fi, hotel broadband and dial-up services for US$100 per month, per user, says Bill Wagner, chief marketing officer at Fiberlink.

Fiberlink is teaming with anti-spyware vendor Webroot Software. The service provider is integrating the Webroot software with its client so users can easily and regularly update their anti-spyware software.

The integration will allow network managers to monitor how often users have updated their Webroot software and build policies around that. A network manager could have a policy that says if a user has not updated his anti-spyware software in six months, he is not permitted to access the VPN.

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