Taking the slow-but-safe route to the enhanced services hamlet, Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp. this week debuted new offerings in online storage, voice dialing and ultra-broadband Internet access.
Specifically, BellSouth will offer its Managed Storage Services live later this year, with partner StorageNetworks Inc., of Waltham, Mass. It will be marketed initially as a way to conduct data backup and recovery, and will be priced by capacity, officials said.
Higher-end users may have choices about what the back-end storage devices will actually be, along with different service-level agreements, BellSouth Chief Marketing Officer Donna Lee said during a press conference.
The voice recognition functionality, supplied by BeVocal Inc., will initially be used as a contact book for dialing. Eventually, the Sunnyvale, Calif., companys technology will be applied to processes like customer service, billing and information portal access, Lee said. Meanwhile, the other new service, Gigabit Ethernet access to the Internet, will eventually enable services like online gaming and video-on-demand. Next year, that service will be bundled with the storage service, and there will be combined SLAs, she said.
"The RBOCs [regional phone companies] are now being forced to get creative with their product offerings," said Yankee Group Inc. analyst Courtney Quinn, in Boston. "It sounds like a pretty small trial. Itll be interesting to get more information on how their commercial trials go. If BellSouth is really serious about this, they have an opportunity to make big noise."
But, she added, the company has to continue to be progressive and to focus on customer service.
"Theyve got to be hungry for it," Quinn said.
BellSouths justifications for the timing and selection of the new services are impressive, Quinn said. For example, as addressed in Lees press conference, the fall of many well-funded application service providers, Web hosting firms and management service providers—as well as the rise of a second generation of such offerings from companies like WorldCom Inc., IBM and Qwest Communications International Inc.—shows that the key emerging to a service providers success is controlling its own infrastructure, which BellSouth does.
Also, because the broadband is already in place to support features like online storage, and because customers are already used to voice-response systems, the new services are a safe bet, Quinn said. Customers existing comfort level in buying a la carte services from their telephony provider will also help, a method thats failed so far from computer companies.
Pricing and more specific availability for the services have not yet been determined, officials said.