Level 3 says enterprises continue to run hybrid TDM/IP-based voice networks

Level 3 Communications may be one of the leading advocates of IP-based voice services, but the reality for many of its larger enterprise customers is they are not ready to totally throw out their TDM-based services or infrastructure.

Given that reality, Level 3 sees enterprises adopting more of a hybrid environment where customers will equip some offices with IP-based while others will continue to use a TDM-based PBX.

To bridge the two worlds, Level 3 offers customers its Voice Complete service. This service leverages Level 3's IP network to provide SIP trunking and native PRI-ISDN (Primary Rate Interface-Integrated Services Digital Network).

Although it's a North American-based offering, Level 3 recently extended Voice Complete to select countries in Western Europe.

Christopher Smith, VP of enterprise communications and unified communications for Level 3, told FierceTelecom what's resonating with its enterprise customers is the fact that Voice Complete supports hybrid customer environments by giving them ability to transition TDM equipment to an IP-based voice solution.

"If I had to pick at a couple features that make it sexy and special, the first one I would say is this hybrid concept," Smith said. "It is the ability for a customer to connect to one product, to one network platform in an access agnostic way."

Even if a customer has multiple voice platforms, Level 3 can connect all of their locations to a single product platform over a TDM or IP-based connection.

"We can connect all of their locations to a common platform via TDM, via IP whether it's Level 3's VPN or internet they purchased from a competitor and have it all connect to this platform under a single SLA and have that entire ecosystem share calling capacity," Smith said.

To support this hybrid environment, Level 3 continues to invest in next-gen SIP equipment and TDM-based network gateways from Sonus.

As part of that process Level 3 will shut down TDM-based platforms and upgrade them to newer platforms to provide ongoing support. The goal is to make the transition seamless for its customers so they don't see any change to features and functions.

"As part of normal course of business, there are certain older network switches that are end of life," Smith said. "We're making investments in newer TDM gear and we decommission them just because we want to make sure customers on newer, maintainable and sustainable technology so we'll continue to support and invest in TDM, but as we do that we'll refresh our network."

Customers are using this hybrid environment in various ways that accommodate how they are most comfortable in purchasing services.

A large majority of Voice Complete sales Level 3 makes are to large enterprises that want to wrap their PBX platforms with voice services from the service provider.

For those customers that don't want the burden of managing a PBX, Level 3 offers global Skype for business bundled with Voice Complete.

"We put Skype for business in our data centers," Smith said. "We host and wrap it with our IP services, whether that be IP/VPN or Internet and wrap it with Voice Complete so you can use Skype as a telephony application and sell the whole thing as a bundle as a service model.

Meanwhile, other customers will have a large PBX for their corporate office and run Skype for business in their branch offices.

"We have customers who do both," Smith said. "In their big corporate offices they have a PBX, but for the branch offices they don't want to make that investment so they may supplement their own deployment with our Skype offer."

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