BT has bought Internet telephony start-up Ribbit to allow the company to speed up its deployment of voice services.

The company would be able build communications functionality into applications so developers could introduce new revenue-generating voice services in hours, rather than weeks, BT claimed.

"Silicon Valley is emerging as a hotbed of telecommunications innovation," said JP Rangaswami, managing director of service design at BT. "With Ribbit, not only do we extend our presence in the valley, but we also gain a groundbreaking platform, a growing community of developers, and a world-class team that share a common vision."

The companies began talking last December, and the talks accelerated when Ribbit introduced its Amphibian product, which turns voicemail into email, at DEMO 08 in January, he said. During DEMO 08 a number of executives from various telephony companies talked with Ribbit, said Don Thorson, Ribbit's vice presiden

"BT said you guys are doing exactly what we should be doing -becoming a software services company not a telco. It was validation that we were on the right track," he added.

In April when Ribbit announced its integration with salesforce.com's on-demand customer relationship management software, the two companies were in the middle of negotiations.

"The reality is we are explicitly not buying Ribbit for its revenue," Rangaswami said. "While its salesforce.com deal was market validation that we're doing the right thing, we're focused on the software, the (employee) skills, and the open platform. Ribbit will accelerate what we're doing."

Ribbit sells web programming tools that help non-telephony programmers integrate voice into new applications or web communities.Its core technology, the Ribbit SmartSwitch, lets voice move across multiple voice protocols for landline and mobile telephones and integrate with Internet applications such as Skype, GoogleTalk, and instant messaging. Ribbit has attracted 5,000 paying developers and BT's developers number about 9,000.

Ribbit's open platform will enhance BT's global 21CN platform "to give the development community the tools they need to innovate on a global scale. We are delighted - BT is exactly the partner we were seeking," Griggs said.

Ribbit will join BT's software development kit (SDK) initiative. BT's SDKs enable developers to integrate new applications with BT's services using a single line of code. BT employs about 8,000 people in the US.