Canal Sat�lite Digital, Madrid, Spain's leading satellite TV operator.
Handling huge bursts of pay-per-view orders before soccer matches.
- Copia's (Naperville
- 630-388-6900) FaxFacts platform
- Dialogic (Parsippany,
NJ - 973-993-3000) voice, fax boards
- Nortel Meridian PBX
- Custom code from Info Estructura
- CSD can handle huge volumes of calls right before soccer matches.
- Subscribers can order from the road.
- Spoken menus of matches are dynamically generated from operator's
Canal Sat�lite Digital, Madrid, part of the Canal + Group, is
Spain's leading digital television service. In operation since
January 1997 via the Astra satellite system, Canal Sat�lite now
provides a million subscribers with more than 150 programming
services, including names as familiar to Americans as CNN, Disney,
and Turner Classic Movies. It also runs Spain's largest pay-per-view
operation, commonly used to order viewings of soccer matches.
CSD subscribers have three ways of ordering pay-per-view. They
can speak to one of CSD's call center agents (for an eighty-cent
premium). They can use interactive TV with their remote control,
the screen menu, and a set-top-box-to-modem link over an x.25
network; about half of CSD's subscribers are connected this way.
They can also use IVR (see schematic).
The burstiness of pay-per-view - viewers typically order access
a few hours before a game starts - has forced CSD to use automated
solutions, even though, says Boris Levy, director of service provider
InfoEstructura (Madrid, Spain,
- +34-91-523-0792), Europeans are historically less amenable to
IVR than Americans. �If you need to handle 25,000 or 50,000 calls
in a hour or two, there's no way you can put in an army of people
to attend all that.� So CSD, like cable and satellite operators
around the world, rely on IVR.
InfoEstructura installed and has been supporting this IVR application
for CSD for three years now. The app, which also handles call
center overflow and after-hours service, uses Copia's
(Naperville - 630-388-6900) FaxFacts platform and InfoE's custom
programming. �FaxFacts main market is fax, which is of course
a part of the system that we also use. But we also use it for
voice-intensive applications,� says Levy.
The same programming functions that let FaxFacts FOD app play
menus, respond to DTMF input, branch and make decisions, access
databases, etc., can be used to build more voice-centric IVR apps.
�Even though FaxFacts looks very simple, it's really very powerful,�
says Levy. �You can develop very powerful dialogs with it and
integrate it through DLLs with any other application. Its simplicity
has been very important for this type of application, because
we can use external programs that we've developed to act on the
dialogs and change them dynamically. I haven't found anything
that I could do with VOS or even C libraries, that I couldn't
do with FaxFacts'.
�For example, we've written the program to consult CSD's database
and specify what games are on at any particular time. (CSD managers
input this data through a web-based program on their intranet.)
Through an interface between that program and FaxFacts, we make
FaxFacts say the games that are available at that day and time.
We use phrase construction from professionally prerecorded sentences
and names of teams and times. We use different recordings if the
team name is mentioned first or second, so the tone of the phrase
is correct,� Levy says.
Callers to the IVR system input their customer codes and the
six-digit code of the program they want to view. This code can
be found on interactive TV menus, in CSD's printed viewing guide,
or through the spoken menu of choices that, as described above,
is dynamically generated every week. Other program logic checks
to see if certain programs are available in the caller's region,
and if the caller hasn't already bought the program he's ordering.
The orders received in the IVR are fed into the Oracle database
which, in turn, sends a signal to the customer TV through the
satellite to activate the purchased TV program.
�The typical call lasts only 50 seconds,� says Levy. They'll
soon shave working on shaving five to eight seconds off that,
by replacing a 14-digit customer code with caller ID and a four-port
InfoE's platform connects to CSD's Meridian PBX over E1 links.
Other E1 connections to the PSTN take IVR calls directly. When
operator intervention is necessary, FaxFacts can also bridge calls
out to CSD's call center over the platform's SCbus and Dialogic
We should probably note at this point that Levy is a Copia VAR
as well, reselling FaxFacts under an OEM agreement, branded Infofax.
He's also developed some features together with the �fax server�
One feature in the works will use QSIG to let the Copia IVR
accept calls transferred from the PBX across the ISDN network
on overflow condition, then transfer them back when PBX ports
become free. Another new feature lets the system derive calling
party information via QSIG, and pass control to a DLL, before
a call is actually answered. �Thus, we can now decide whether
to accept or reject the call based on caller information and other
relevant system data, such as line usage and time of day,� says
CSD has also used InfoE's service for call-in contests: During
a 24-hour marathon broadcast of �Friends� episodes, the broadcaster
offered seven prizes of tickets to a U.S. taping to winners of
a �Friends� trivia quiz. The system, which handled all contest
calls, was completely maxed out for 18 hours, says Levy.