Telecoms operator Colt has launched a flat-rate IP PBX service in partnership with Avaya. The new service, which is available from today, will be offered to Colt users in 13 European countries.

Colt claimed that the service would be the first of its kind in Europe and was expected to be particularly attractive to organisation with between 20 and 1000 employees. The managed IP PBX will be offered as either a hosted service at the customer’s premises or at a Colt data centre.

Announcing the service, Colt CEO Jean-Yves Charlier said that the company was ready to transform the European voice market. "The customer wants an integrated service, he doesn’t want to buy equipment from one vendor and a network from another."

This was a view endorsed by Chris Lewis, enterprise practice leader for research consultancy Ovum. He said that the industry was in the midst of a massive transition to IP. "In particular," he said, "SMBs are making a move towards single sourcing."

He added that Ovum research had shown that the main drivers for IP telephony were a need for converged services and a roll-out to IP VPN.

Charlier said that the launch was just the first step in a range of services. He said that the company was looking at a way of offering connections to mobile networks as well. “We’re already exploring avenues of how to provide mobile services to our customers. For example, we’re looking at a joint 3G/WLAN handset.

Colt customers have endorsed the move. Sean Lam, executive director and chief operating officer at UK stockbrokers, WCWB said that moving to IP telephony was a "no-brainer". He described it like "moving from black and white television to colour, or from dial-up Internet access to broadband". He added that the main appeal to him was handing the problem of managing the voice service to Colt.

The service will be priced at a £14.00 (EUR20) one-off cost per user then flat rate pricing package of £17.00 (EUR24.50) per user per month for unlimited local, national and international calls within Colt countries.