September 1, 2005

4 Min Read
Class 5 Switching Goes Condo

By Paula Bernier

Houston-based i3 Voice & Data Inc. now offers CLECs displaced by the phase-out of UNE-P a la carte access to TDM- and IPbased switching facilities based on a time share concept. The 1-year-old companys UNE-3 Fractional Switch Ownership program service goes live this month.

With UNE-3, CLECs purchase only the ports they need (the minimum purchase is 1,000) from a MetaSwitch VP3500 series softswitch that i3 operates out of a PoP in Dallas, where i3 also has a MetaSwitch UC9000 Unified Communications System and session border controller equipment from NexTone Communications. The softswitch provides more than 100 Class 5 features including the full range of custom calling and Centrex services, plus TDM, Ethernet and IP protocol support.

But this is not a switch partitioning leasing program. Instead, CLECs actually gain full ownership including buy, sell and lease rights to their select switch ports via UNE-3, meaning the competitive service provider gains an asset it can record on its balance sheets. You get the benefit of the depreciation of that asset, notes Chris Reese, founder, president and CEO at i3.

In addition, i3 provides CLECs with connectivity and will operate, maintain and manage the network for the CLEC. Colocated with Level 3 Communications Inc., i3 also has agreements with Covad Communications Group and New Edge Networks, which provide DSL services to i3s CLEC customers so they can resell those services and offer voice over that connectivity. Additionally, i3 can provide CLECs with support for TDM- and IPbased services through its relationships with XO Communications Inc. and others, which provide it with DS0 ports that allow i3 to deliver PRI, line-powered voice with GR-303 trunking.

i3 Networks Ramji Raman, vice president of finance and CFO; Christopher Reese, president and CEO; and Joe Bevill, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

We basically act as an aggregator/reseller, says Reese, noting that by combining the interests of its multiple CLEC customers it gains bargaining power with vendors and can pass those savings on to its customers.

While voice and DSL services are i3s primary focus, the UNE-3 program works like UNE-P its a la carte. If a CLEC just needs 911, for example, the company can purchase just that network component from i3. If the CLEC needs only transport and wants to handle origination and termination themselves, they can do that.

The switch ports are available at a onetime, fixed-price-per-port fee that ranges from $24 to $30 per piece, depending upon volume. And i3 offers financing for CLECs, if desired.

As for the services, i3 typically comes out at $1 to $3 per line less versus most first-year commercial agreements CLECs have with ILECs, says Reese, adding that hes including voice mail into his end of the equation, which he says most ILECs do not supply as part of their deals with CLECs. The savings is even more dramatic when you look at bringing a specific building on-net, says Reese. He adds that i3 offers IP trunking from the switch to the building and line-powered voice to office and residential buildings.

At the end of July when PHONE+ spoke with i3 for this article, the company was working with six CLEC customers, including AmeriMex Communications Corp. of Atlanta and Navigator Telecommunications LLC of Little Rock, Ark., the two of which have more than 50,000 lines each.

While the MetaSwitch softswitch is currently configured for 60,000 ports, i3 presold the subscriptions to those ports, so already is planning to up its capacity. Our plan is to have 15 to 20 percent more capacity than our current customer base demands, that way we can scale quickly, says Reese.

He says i3 plans to stay ahead of what CLECs need in terms of capacity so it can offer additional ports and services as CLECs and their customers require.

Part of i3s buildout plan includes additional gateways in Chicago and also possibly in Atlanta and on the West Coast.


AmeriMex Communications Corp Communications Group www.covad.comi3 Voice & Data Inc. www.i3net.usLevel 3 Communications Inc. www.level3.comMetaSwitch www.metaswitch.comNavigator Telecommunications www.navtel.comNew Edge Networks www.newedgenetworks.comNexTone Communications www.nextone.comXO Communications Inc.

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