The alliance with Bell Atlantic International Inc and Siemens AG is turning out to be one of IBM’s more important initiatives as it strives to become a major player in the telecommunications world, particularly on the services side. And, as reported briefly last week (CI No 1,029) the triumvirate has identified five intelligent network services […]
The alliance with Bell Atlantic International Inc and Siemens AG is turning out to be one of IBM’s more important initiatives as it strives to become a major player in the telecommunications world, particularly on the services side. And, as reported briefly last week (CI No 1,029) the triumvirate has identified five intelligent network services that they it reckons have exceptional high-growth potential worldwide for the 1990s. And the three firms believe they can bring together their expertise for combing telephone and computer technologies to provide innovative new services such as the five identified – out of a total of over 30, in 16 European countries, and Australia, burdened with having to stand in for the rest of the world – and offer them to public telephone operators and telecommunications administrations to offer on their customers. The five services on which the stress will fall in the next phase of the joint effort are toll-free numbers; alternate billing services; emergency services; private virtual networks; and wide-area Centrex. The partners define an intelligent network as one in which customer services and applications are provided through intelligent nodes, such as computers, that enhance the ability of telephone exchanges to handle calls automatically in an appropriate manner in applications where human intervention is usually needed at present. One attraction of the five services is the strong synergistic link the partners perceived with Integrated Services Digital Network. The toll-free call – the partners have dubbed it a Green Number service for their own dark and impenetrable reasons – enables the business receiving a call to pay for it; the service is already making its mark in the UK, and the trio reckons that it will be one of the fastest-growing intelligent network services in Europe between now and 1995 (West Germans won’t be able to believe their luck – at present, the go ahead Bundespost doesn’t even allow you to make an international reverse charge or collect call). They point out that the service, like other intelligent network services, requires hardware and software to control a multiplicity of call-routing decisions, such as where the call originates, the time of day when the call is made, and the day of the week, to process the call more effectively through the telephone network. Digital cellular Alternate billing services allow a caller to charge the cost of calls to a credit card number, or a different phone number from the one being used to make the call. It requires that the telephone network be able to access a remote database automatically. Emergency response service provides a special short number – 999 in the UK – for the caller to reach an emergency response station equipped to obtain automatically all the database information required and forward it to the appropriate agency for immediate dispatch of police, fire, or medical services. Private virtual networks are what are known as permanent virtual circuits on an X25 packet-switched network, giving large businesses the impression that connections over the public phone lines are being made over dedicated private lines. And wide area Centrex provides PABX-type functions such as call forwarding, abbreviated dialling, message intercept for absent called party, conference calling, and such over public phone lines – and British Telecom is far from convinced that such a service is viable in an environment where most large companies already have PABXs. IBM and Siemens are now embarked on a follow-on study to examine how the intelligent network concept might also be applied in the pan-European Digital Cellular phone network planned for the early 1990s – the first indication that IBM is interested in cellular phone systems. The study will consider how intelligent network services could be available from mobile telephone locations as well as in the home and office. And all three companies plan to continue co-operation in considering other related services and network capabilities.