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Skype and Avaya have announced a strategic agreement to federate their two communications platforms letting users of either system contact and communicate with users of the other system.

The deal represents a breakthrough for the unified communications market where high-end video conferencing systems, for all their functionality, have been unable to connect with users on the free voice and video conferencing system Skype which claims 124 million users, including many business travelers and telecommuters.

The first phase of the agreement, coming in the next month, will enable voice calls between users of the two systems when Avaya delivers Skype Connect to users in the U.S. market. The technology adds Skype voice calling to IP based enterprise communications systems, providing a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) communications channel between Avaya communications systems and Skype.

A second phase of the technology integration is slated for the second half  of 2011 and will integrate presence, instant messaging and video calls between U.S. Avaya users and Skype users. The integration is intended to establish federation between Avaya Aura and Skype communications platforms and both user communities, the companies said, so that an Avaya end-user and Skype user can engage and interact via presence, instant messaging, voice and video.

The deal is not an exclusive one, enabling Skype and other voice, video and networking players such as Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize to strike their own deals with Skype and enabling Avaya to strike other deals of its own. Skype vice president and general manager of Skype for Business,  David Gurlé, told analysts during a conference call that Skype and Avaya would make the APIs available to other vendors interested in the Skype Connect interoperability.

Gurlé told analysts that the value of a communications system depends upon how many other systems could connect to it.

Avaya said that customers who use with Avaya Aura Session Manager or Avaya Aura SIP Enablement Server, CS1000, Avaya IP Office, or BCM systems can use Skype Connect to place calls globally for increased reach, while aiming saving costs on international calling. Enterprise-level security and features such as tracking, recording, regulatory compliance, and more are provided by the Avaya system. In addition, Skype users can make inbound calls to Avaya customers in the U.S. market for free or at a low cost, the companies said. Calls will be treated with Avaya’s routing, conferencing, messaging, mobility and contact center capabilities, as well as other collaboration services.

The companies provided the following examples of what businesses can do:

  • Establish Skype Click & Call buttons for inbound calling from Web sites
  • Establish Skype Online Numbers for inbound calling from landline and mobile phones
  • Route inbound calls from a Skype user to an enterprise extension