Smart selects IBM to deploy VoIP solution

14 Jun 2004

Up and coming licensed telco Smart Telecom has signed a significant technology deal with IT services giant IBM and voice-over IP (VoIP) switching systems player Cirpack to deploy its next generation nationwide network across Ireland to enable single billing and future broadband services.

It is understood that both IBM and Cirpack were chosen during a competitive tender process as Smart Telecom’s primary switching integrator for their new core telecommunication network, a plan that will roll-out over the next few years.

The deal will see Smart Telecom invest in the provision and installation of next generation voice switching technologies based on IBM’s eServer xSeries and CirPack’s carrier-class soft switch and PSTN gateways.

Once deployed, the system will enable Smart Telecom to engage in single billing services as well as introduce innovative new telecom services to the business and the home.

The technology will also enable Smart Telecom to grow its prepaid-service business, optimise its long distance call routing, manage all of its public payphones, lower overall costs and prepare for VoIP to offer to the Irish residential and SME markets. Smart says it specifically sees VoIP as an offering that both residential and corporate customers are now ready to embrace.

“We are planning on installing equipment at 50 local telephone exchanges to supply a range of broadband internet and telephone services,” said Oisin Fanning, Smart Telecom’s chief executive.

“Amongst some of the benefits end-users can look forward to are single telephone billing for line rental and calls and paying for the services they use. In addition, for the small business user or home user there will be the possibility to have multiple numbers off one telephone line, with the potential to add extra numbers at any time automatically with no waiting period.”

Smart Telecom was formed when Fanning raised €2.5m in private equity funding, which he used to buy the prepaid call cards business of Switchcom for €600,000. Fanning went on to acquire the phonebox business of Alphyra for €2.4m as well as a further 600 payphones from Esat BT, which divested itself of this business for a sum of €1.2m. Smart Telecom now has 35,000 customers and reported annual revenues of over €16m. The company has grown from a staff of 20 people to 180 people. A further 100 jobs are to be created in Cork following the lighting of the MAN there.

The company in recent months revealed plans to use the Cork metropolitan area network (MAN), the largest of the 19 MANs being created by the Government, to connect with the 28 main business parks around Cork. The company has already established a network node, or point of access, at the National Software Centre in Cork.

Smart has also signed a contract with ESB Telecom to connect the Cork MAN with its own 120km fibre optic network around Dublin, using ESB’s €50m 1,300km network that connects with 11 of the 19 proposed MANs. Smart’s own Dublin network connects into the 2km fibre optic ring around the Digital Hub district as well as the T50 broadband network that straddles the west side of Dublin and Bord Gais’ Aurora fibre optic network.

The company has connected this network with all the 18 different data centres in Dublin, which then connects to the pan-European Epsilon fibre network that connects with a further 32 data centres across Europe as part of a Smart/Epsilon business pact. A similar alliance has been forged with US-based Beyond The Network (BTN), owned by Hong Kong Telecom, that will connect Smart with all the major US centres of business.

Speaking of the technology solution deployed by IBM and Cirpack, Gerry McCarthy, IBM integrated technology services business manager, said: “It will enable operators to deliver better services to their customers, providing ‘on-demand’ bundling options which suit the end-users requirements. Up until now, customers have been charged for the amount of time they spend online; Smart Telecom will be able to provide bundling options where the customer will be charged for the services they use and not tied to in to a restrictive package which does not suit their individual requirements.”

By John Kennedy