Citel has ramped up its attack on the Nortel Networks private branch exchange space with a promotion designed help 3Com VARs convince their customers they have a choice when

it comes to upgrading their phone systems.

The promotion involves the CitelLink Handset Gateway, which was made available in July. According to the company, the CitelLink card enables legacy private branch exchange (PBX) handsets to interconnect with IP-based network protocols and to work with IP-PBX.

Until the end of August, if a customer replaces a Nortel Norstar system with an NBX line, the dealer will receive a rebate for up to four free NBX phones and one CitelLink card. After August, there are no more free phones but the dealer will still receive the rebate for the CitelLink board. If they replace a Norstar system with 3Com’s NBX 100, they get one free board, and if they sell a SuperStack 3 NBX, the NBX 100’s “”bigger brother”” which can scale up to 1,500 phones, resellers will get three free boards, said John Drolet, vice-president of worldwide sales at Citel Technologies’ Seattle office.

Drolet said he introduced the joint rebate promotion with 3Com to eight resellers on Tuesday at 3Com‘s Mississauga, Ont. office.

Tuesday’s meeting focused on sales and marketing as well as technical training. It was also an opportunity to get to know Trent Ready, 3Com Canada’s new business development manager, voice, who’s only been on the job for a few weeks.

Greg Zwieg, product manager for telephones at 3Com’s Andover, Mass. location, said the business development manager position was created last winter in order to help the company focus more on voice. Drolet said working closely with people like Ready will be key to the successful sale of voice products.

“”We follow those voice development managers around like a little puppy dog,”” Drolet said. “”Ready will go out and recruit voice dealers to sell NBX.””

Bruce Richards, chief operations officer with Hamilton, Ont.-based reseller Rolling Thunder, said it’s a little early to gauge the impact of Citel’s solution. However, the promotion itself sounds pretty enticing, he said. “”This product can integrate with Norstar handsets and implement a true IP solution at a lower cost than implementing an entire new solution. So in that respect, it’s a great leveraging point.””

Richards said the only disadvantage he sees at the moment is that the CitelLink card only supports two models of Norstar phones: the M7208 and the M7310.

“”Right now the difficulty is finding those clients that have it,”” Richards said. “”It is the most popular style of phone, but it is harder to do. The styles they’ve chosen are more on the enterprise side, and enterprise corporations are a little leery of adopting the technology as quickly as some of the smaller businesses are.””

However, 3Com’s Zwieg pointed out that this situation should change shortly — within the next couple of months, the CitelLink card will support all Norstar models. “”If months from now someone wanted to add a Norstar phone that was not initially supported, they would only have to upgrade the card software. It’s kind of minor limitation.””


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