Sprint, Cisco Offering Cloud-Based Unified Communications Platform

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2012-03-26
 
 
 

Sprint, with partner Cisco Systems, is launching its first major cloud initiative€”and the first of several cloud-based services the carrier says it has planned for this year. Powered by Cisco's Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) platform, Sprint Complete Collaboration is a hosted, fully managed unified communications (UC) bundle that allows IT departments to deploy a communications platform across an all-IP network to all employees, regardless of where they are and the devices they are using.

Geared toward Sprint's larger business customers, it's now offered on a per-seat basis. The carrier officially announced its new UC platform March 26.

"It builds on our legacy as a managed voice provider; we've offered PBXs for as long as we've been in business," Mike McRoberts, Sprint's director of convergence product management, told eWEEK, explaining that Sprint's customers nudged it toward the offering.

"Customers were saying, €˜We want the benefits of what can come through a UC investment, and we want Sprint to provide a complete service offering,€™€ McRoberts added. €œWe stepped back and said that makes sense.€

Sprint Complete Collaboration includes IP and video telephony, integrated messaging, collaboration tools, user endpoints, enhanced mobile integration and connectivity through Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking. An SIP trunk connects traditional phone lines to an IP solution, inside or outside an enterprise; while extra in some solutions, it's included here, helping to offer a seamless experience across all mobile operating systems and endpoints.

The solution, said McRoberts, also addresses the trend of increasingly remote workers and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. Users can download the client to laptops, tablets and smartphones€”regardless of the carrier or if it's a personal device or company-owned.

"This really gives users the capability of having a seamless experience, whether they're working out of a traditional office, in a hotel room, in an airport, at home or wherever," said McRoberts. "It will also deliver a lower total cost of ownership because of the flexibility we're enabling. It frees up IT organizations from the mess traditionally having to do with the PBX. They can buy this as a service and let Sprint make sure it works in a tactical way for the user community."

Sprint is the first Cisco customer to market an HCS-powered solution that includes enhanced mobility and SIP trunking in a fully managed bundle that enables complete employee collaboration.

"It also is the only hosted UC solution to offer both client and network-based mobile integration for a simplified, richer mobile user experience," according to Sprint. It added that the solution also helps to "ensure business continuity and disaster recovery, while reducing costs through LEC [Local Exchange Carrier] elimination and more efficient trunking."

Complete Collaboration will be offered in three versions:

    Voice Centric: This is designed for employees mostly needing call management and basic UC functions.
    Standard: Offering more true UC capabilities, this packages all voice features with enhanced collaboration through instant messaging, presence and desktop sharing. It's integrated with the Jabber client, and while Microsoft Office isn't offered, it's compatible with it.
    Premium: Geared for very on-the-go executives or remote workers, this version includes voice features, collaboration tools, mobile presence and support for a wide range of user endpoints.

Several Sprint customers have been testing the beta version of the solution. McRoberts noted several customers believe a cloud-based UC platform can help them free up extra IT resources and "keep their focus on higher value-added projects and really rally to move the needle."

As for the Sprint network, McRoberts added, "We're promising customers a congestion-free experience and backing it up with [service-level agreements]. We encourage you to load it up with traffic."


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