Qwest first with voice softswitch

Qwest Communications International Inc. is the first regional Bell operating company (RBOC) to use a softswitch to carry voice traffic on its data network.

The packet voice traffic is being trunked by a Nortel Succession Communications Server 2000 and gateways from traditional local switches to the Qwest backbone, according to Sue Spradley, president of Nortel Networks Corp.'s voice-over-IP (VoIP) unit.

The Nortel gear lightens the load on trunking switches, known as tandems. These softswitches cost less and take up less space than traditional tandem switches, and allow service providers to move voice traffic over data networks.

Other RBOCs, including BellSouth and Verizon, say they are using softswitches, but only for data calls. These calls to Internet service providers tend to clog traditional local switches.

Local phone switches provide the intelligence to add call features - such as three-way calling, caller ID and call waiting - to customer services. Softswitches can also provide some of this intelligence, but so far no RBOCs have used these features.

Qwest says it has plans to use Nortel's switches throughout its 14-state territory, and Spradley says these devices can be upgraded to perform local-switch functions.

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