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Cebridge to Add VoIP

Cebridge Connections has signed a memorandum of understanding with Net2Phone Cable Telephony to provide the starting-up MSO with cable voice services, beginning next year.

Cebridge plans to begin offering telephony in selected Texas and Missouri markets in first quarter 2004, targeting its 150,000 high-speed data home passed.

"Primary-line service is our goal," said Cebridge senior vice president of engineering Terry Cordova. "We'll bundle phone with high speed data and video. It's pretty darn exciting for us."

Cebridge will control the customer interface and handle technical support, while Net2Phone will provide the switching, transport and technical support from the cable-modem termination systems through the public switched-telephone network.

Cordova said Cebridge is evaluating vendors and plans to have most in place in the next 45 days.

Cebridge decided to go with Net2Phone for the initial markets, which serve about 20% of the MSO's overall 350,000 subscribers, for several reasons, Cordova said. For one, the MSO is pushing high-speed data and didn't want its field personnel distracted with a telephony launch. The Net2Phone solution also cuts down on initial capital costs.

Cordova also said he was impressed with the Net2Phone's lab and engineering staff.

All the technology Cebridge will use will be PacketCable-compliant. "We will select certified vendors," he said.

Cebridge is in the midst of choosing vendors for the media terminal adapters inside the home, Cordova said.

"We will harden the headend, plant and home to support primary-line service. We will have battery backup at every power supply within the system. We will have redundant CMTS equipment, and eight-hour backup power at the home."

Calls will route through the cable plant and through the CMTS to a media gateway, then on to the call management system and soft switch, which be located in Houston, Cordova said. Calls are routed back through the media gateway and to the PSTN. Cordova said the initial deployment will likely use about 10 media gateways, connected to the one Houston call management system.

Net2Phone has completed integration work with CSG Systems Inc., Cebridge's billing supplier. Customers will be able to go online to see their account history, calls they've made and to add and drop services.

Cebridge will handle customer service calls for in-home and drop-to-headend issues. Net2Phone customer service reps will handle tier 2 issues, from the media gateway through the back office and the PSTN.