In 2008, UK telco and IT services provider BT acquired Ribbit, a Silicon Valley start-up whose ‘SmartSwitch’ software switching platform is used to build IP-based voice applications.
BT completed the integration of Ribbit into its own network technology in March 2011. At that point, the company began work on BT Voice, a cross-platform VoIP system that allows customers to use their home or office phone number across all their devices.
That meant building client applications for the Android, iOS and BlackBerry mobile platforms simultaneously. BT chose to do this internally, explains programme director Martin Rolls, in order to hone its own mobile development expertise.
The apps were built using an Agile method, delivering functional code every two weeks. To keep the process on course, the apps were rolled out to up to 1,000 internal test users. These test users were surveyed every 12 weeks to see what worked and what did not. “We also involved colleagues from [service arm] BT Global Services and [consumer division] BT Retail when discussing and reviewing the service at the end of every two-week sprint.”
BT has now rolled Voice out across the company. Not only does it mean that employees can be contacted easily despite their increasingly mobile work patterns, it should also help to reduce mobile telephony costs, says Rolls. “As a large corporate, we spend a fairly significant sum of money on mobile telephony, and there’s an opportunity here to reduce costs.”
BT plans to launch BT Voice to customers later this year.