Telecommuting service arrives

Telecommuting service arrives

Company offers less expensive alternative to DSL

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Agency telecommuters who wish they had high-speed voice and data connections such as digital subscriber lines might find an inexpensive alternative through Internet service providers in Chicago; Dayton, Ohio; Los Angeles; New York; and Thayer, Mo.

ISPs there are offering the eRing service, developed by eRing Solutions Inc. of Montreal. It notifies a user of an incoming call, which it can route through the user's computer while maintaining the network connection.

The voice over IP service is simplex, meaning only one person can speak at a time.

The biggest inconvenience is that callers must dial a separate telephone number to reach the eRing account, somewhat like calling someone's pager.

In-house announcements

The service is targeted at residential customers, but some organizations have expressed interest in internal applications that would use eRing to broadcast messages to employees, eRing president Luc St-Arnaud said.

The service runs on a low-end server under Microsoft Windows NT at the ISP's premises and uses voice input-output cards from Dialogic Corp. of Parsippany, N.J.

'The Dialogic boards do all the processing, so the server doesn't have to be very big,' St-Arnaud said.

Users download client software from a Web site and establish an eRing account. A user's PC must have a microphone and speakers.

If callers get a busy signal on a user's regular telephone line, they call the local eRing access number and are prompted by the server to enter the user's account number. The call routes over IP to the user's computer, where a dialog box pops up. The user can click on an option to take the call over the data connection.

A stripped-down free service allows only one voice exchange between caller and user before the connection is broken. A $20 annual fee gives unlimited conversation and also provides voice mail. For long-distance calls, a toll-free 800 number service costs 15 cents per minute.

The service is new in the United States, but eRing has offered it for a year in Canada and has 35,000 subscribers, company representatives said.

Contact eRing at 514-481-8324.

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