BellSouth is making Voice over Internet Protocl technology available to businesses across the Southeast as part of a Centrex IP Service offering.

The company said customers can consolidate voice and Internet services through the offering. While it has offered VoIP in the past, BellSouth said it is expanding the service to include networks.

Also Thursday, BellSouth and Nortel announced that the communications company would be using Nortel packet voice switches as part of its core network. The first so-called tandem switch is to be installed in Memphis and network testing will begin in the second quarter, the companies said in a statement.

VoIP technology includes converting data and voice into packets for digital transmission.

The moves are among the latest BellSouth has made since 2001 when it first began to offer VoIP services.

“As a complete voice provider, BellSouth is positioned to deliver sound consultation and support as customers explore and evolve towards next-generation services,” said Bill Smith, BellSouth’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “Centrex IP is indicative of the company’s commitment to aggressively deploy solutions that allow customers to have multiple options as they build converged voice and data networks.”

The Centrex IP option includes housing equipment at BellSouth rather than at a customer premises. Telephone call management functions can be handled through a secure web browser. BellSouth said it will use Lucent hardware of the new offerings.

Other offerings as BellSouth cited them include:

  • “Find Me, Follow Me functionality sends communications to email, voicemail or wireless phone based on time of day or availability, a result of system integration in the converged network

  • “Access to incoming and outgoing call history allows easy tracking and auditing for internal and external record keeping
    Click to Dial, Click to Conference functions make voice calling more efficient, saving up to several minutes on each call

  • “A variety of supporting media (instant messaging, chat, polling, instant document transfer) can run concurrently with basic voice conversations, over the same network, for a more effective and productive environment

  • “The cost of Moves, Adds and Changes is greatly reduced with IP configuration at the desktop versus reprogramming traditional PBXs

  • “The ability to access office calling features from any remote location with Internet access provides telecommuters with additional functionality and increased business continuity for the organization

  • “Simplified migration capabilities enable existing Centrex users to transition to Centrex IP at a pace that makes sense for their organization, while maintaining communications functionality.”
  • The Nortel switches will be used to transfer calls between BellSouth facilities rather than through traditional circuit switching, the companies said.

    “BellSouth continues to see growing capacity needs in its core network,” Smith, BellSouth’s CTO, said. “By using packet voice tandem switching, BellSouth is helping meet these demands while benefiting from the better economics, higher capacity and additional flexibility of the new architecture.”