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Researchers join up for around-the-world network

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An around the world network agreement has been signed between over 450 international technology leaders in a bid to provide a more resilient service to researchers as they work together on projects and share data.

Research collaboration involving China, Europe and the United States will be safeguarded through the first major agreement among partners running the two main high-speed research and education (R&E) Internet routes across Asia, Europe and North America. By agreeing to provide reciprocal backup services via two 10 Gbps connections around the globe, the organisations involved say they will maximise connectivity and provide a stronger, more resilient service to researchers as they work together on major projects and share growing volumes of data.

ORIENTplus, Internet2, TransPAC3 and CERNET signed the agreement last month at the TIP2013 Conference, which involved more than 450 international technology leaders. This is the first-ever backup agreement for R&E traffic around the globe. The partners will work together to closely co-ordinate operations and network monitoring to enable seamless global backup of R&E network traffic. This partnership reflects the recognition among national and regional R&E networking organisations that a collaborative approach is the most effective way to meet the needs of an increasingly global user base.

The ORIENTplus link is operated by the Chinese research and education networks CERNET and CSTNet in conjunction with their European counterparts. Chinese researchers work closely with their European peers on the GÉANT network through the ORIENTplus link. Running between London and Beijing via Siberia and upgraded to 10 Gbps at the beginning of 2013, ORIENTplus provides the highest capacity direct R&E network link between China and Europe.

The collaboration between China and the United States is underpinned by a 10 Gbps trans-Pacific connection from Los Angeles to Beijing (US-China link), operated by the Indiana University-based TransPAC3 project and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. This connection provides a high-performance link between U.S. universities connected to the Internet2 Network and Chinese universities and researchers connected to the Chinese higher education network, CERNET.

In the event of outages or cable cuts on one network route, traffic will be routed via the alternative path, increasing resilience and minimizing disruption to European and U.S. researchers working with their Chinese peers. Current collaborations using these routes include the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory and ground-breaking genome projects, both between the EU and China and the U.S. and China.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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