FREE Chooses IBM and CIRPACK to Deliver VoIP Services to all French Households

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Paris, France & LinuxWorld, New York - 21 Jan 2004: - IBM and Cirpack today announced they have signed a multi-year frame agreement with Free, the second largest French ISP, to deploy a nationwide Next Generation Network (NGN) delivering new packet-based services to the mass market starting with IP telephony services (VoIP) over unbundled DSL lines.

This phone service is provided as an add-on to the company's ADSL service in the areas where Free has deployed its own DSL infrastructure using the unbundled France Telecom's local loop. The service is available in about 20 metropolitan areas in France as of today (Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Aix, Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes, Caen, Rouen, Lille, Nancy, Strasbourg, and to be added soon Dijon, Besançon, Montpellier).

Free provides its customers with a no-charge "Freebox", a voice-enabled DSL modem for connecting analog phone sets. Using Free's VoIP service is designed to be as easy as using the traditional analog phone service with the addition of a rich set of features among which: Self-provisioning via a Web interface, calling name presentation, call waiting, call transfer, three party conferencing, voice mail, etc.

Deploying this solution using the latest SoftSwitch technology and services from Cirpack and IBM enables Free to offer to a very large number of residential subscribers free and unlimited calling within France as well as aggressively priced calls to international and mobile phones. In addition, subscribers can be reached through their Free phone number at the price of a local call regardless of the distance. This also allows Free to implement its own innovative business model based on "free services concepts" (rather than traditional "charge per call") and break into the French residential telephony market to quickly gain market share and become a reference for other players.

At the heart of the deployed infrastructure is a Cirpack SuperNode providing MGCP call control to VoIP subscribers and SIP-T signaling with the other existing Cirpack switches installed throughout France connecting to the Public Service Telecommunications Network (PSTN). The Cirpack SuperNode is built on an IBM eServer* xSeries** cluster running carrier grade Linux and hosting the Cirpack Class-5 SoftSwitch application. This solution is designed to scale up to deliver high volume, on-demand service as Free's VoIP traffic increases. It is also designed to allow the IBM Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE) components to be added progressively to the infrastructure.

"Free invested in Cirpack SoftSwitch technology over the past two years and has been very pleased with the quality of service and rich feature set Cirpack solutions provide," explains Michael Boukobza, Chief Operating Officer, Free. "Cirpack switches have proven to be carrier class and highly reliable. We are very confident this is an excellent technical foundation to build our new residential VoIP telephony services. We've been testing and preparing the launch of our VoIP service for several months. The combination of Cirpack's SuperNode and IBM's highly scalable, carrier grade Linux eServer technology, will allow Free to address the demanding volumes we anticipate from our residential VoIP service."

IBM is the solutions integrator providing the Cirpack SuperNode platform, performing the installation services, the ongoing life-cycle support services via IBM Global Services and financing plan through IBM Global Financing. The Cirpack and IBM approach provides Free with the time to market benefits of a totally integrated solution and leverages the recently announced agreement signed between Cirpack and IBM to deliver next generation telephony switches to telecom service providers and carriers.

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