IP networking company Level 3 Communications Inc. and 8x8 Inc. have announced an agreement to use Level 3s (3)VoIP Enhanced Local service to enhance 8x8s residential voice-over-IP offering in more than 50 U.S. markets.
8x8, an early name in IP voice and videophones, supplies subscribers with its own terminal packetizing adapter, through which regular analog phones can access the residential broadband modem. The Santa Clara, Calif., company also sells its own videophone.
The Level 3 agreement solves the Enhanced 911 part of VOIPs puzzle for 8x8, assuring subscribers that emergency calls from their IP-connected phones will be routed to the correct PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), typically a local police station. This is not a routing function that VOIP callers can yet take for granted, since IP addresses do not correlate with geographical locations, nor can a cable-carried call, for example, be traced to a specific central office. Instead, the carrier (here, Level 3) must in some way maintain a current database of subscriber locations. The location fields of this data base (Apartment 3G, 123 Elm St.) must be referenced and sent to the PSAP should 911 be dialed.
The deal with Level 3, of Broomfield, Colo., also greatly expands 8x8s national reach, to 65 percent of U.S. households through Level 3s network of VOIP-PSTN gateway POPs. Level 3s CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) status in 48 states makes it an effective wholesaler for smaller IP telcos, as does its stated commitment not to compete with its customers for retail VOIP business.
Like many VOIP services, 8x8 offers an all-you-can-dial package, complete with voice mail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding and three-way conference calling, to any U.S. or Canadian number, and can price it well below similar PSTN offerings: $22.95 per month. This plan, dubbed "Freedom Unlimited," levies a $3 increment over its Packet8 branded service, which does not offer E911 and thus is typically used alongside a traditional PSTN line in the home. Through Level 3, 8x8 is also able to let subscribers take their current phone numbers with them if they switch their primary telephone line to IP voice service. Both VOIP brands come with Web access to account controls and real-time online billing.