The demand for new voice services has spurred a tiny equipment company from Gatineau QC to devise a softswitch that helps service providers upgrade their networks with relative ease. While concentrating on application service providers right now, Versatel Networks Inc. expects to move into conferencing and PBXs shortly. Versatel is a spin-off of CML Technologies, which makes switching systems for E911, air traffic control, mobile radio dispatch, and military command and control. The company’s founders discovered a need for a switching apparatus that could handle the different interfaces in emergency response teams. They found hospitals, police and fire services were all using different systems that could not communicate with one another following a 911 call. Versatel’s president/CEO compares his products to home computing. “It should be similar to the notion of the PC where, when I want to work on a PC, I don’t actually think of the ATI or the graphics cards. I just need to use the display,” Robert Mimeault explains to Network Letter. The firm has recently released a new service creation switch that acts as a platform. The device permits the integration of voice and other services on a single chassis. Maintaining optimum voice standards is vital, Mimeault stresses. Customers are prepared to tolerate spotty performance on data transmission, but they demand reliable, good quality voice service. Marketing VP Alec Saunders takes up the analogy of a PC operating system.“As these networks evolve, service providers can just swap out the components and swap in the new components that allow them to take advantage of the new networking technology,” he tells NL. “The application remains unchanged. It doesn’t know that the underlying architecture has changed nor does it need to know.” The company is excited about the uses for its Versatel Switch Operating System (VSOS). Saunders reports a practical application for VSOS that benefits industry and consumers alike. “The fastest area of growth of interactive online content is personals and dating. It’s just exploding,” he notes. “People getting together and finding their mates online with these massive database engines.” Eventually the would-be lovebirds decide to advance the relationship from online and exchange phone numbers. This results in a loss of anonymity for the customers and loss of revenue for the matchmaking company. “You have no idea if the person who’s going to be contacting you is a creep or a weirdo or the love of your life,” Saunders adds. “So what we can do in this scenario, you’ve got two people who are chatting away and they’re talking on the dating firm’s server farm. They decide they want to talk and the application on the server farm then contacts our switch, which then initiates two outbound anonymous calls. So their conference together, until they decide they’re comfortable exchanging phone numbers, they don’t have to. And the added benefit to the service provider is they get to keep the people on their server and they get to continue to earn money.” Versatel has 32 employees in its head office, just across the river from Ottawa. It partners with companies like SS8 Networks Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Intel Corp. for its components. Manufacturing has been outsourced to United Tri-Tech Corp. of Cornwall ON.Versatel works with value-added resellers and integrators like Heritage Communications Corp. and PhoenixSoft Inc. Mimeault hopes to have announcements of deals with two major service providers shortly. The privately held company expects to approach venture capital funds for what the president terms a “fairly large chunk of money” in the autumn. While the eventual goal is to do an IPO, Mimeault concedes Versatel will have to increase its run rate.