A handset gateway solution may allow Canadian resellers to bring IP telephony to the private branch exchanges within small and medium enterprises.

CITEL Technologies Monday said it was turning to 3Com Canada’s reseller channel to market its IP Handset Gateway. The 16-port card can slide into the chassis of 3Com’s NBX 100 and SuperStack NBX products, using public branch exchange (PBX) protocols to communicate with traditional telephone handsets and Internet Protocol (IP). The card then translates between the two networks, giving customers access to IP telephony features like unified messaging and browser-based administration.

CITEL approached 3Com through its NBX Solution Provider Program, which creates a formal structure that would allow third parties to integrate with its product line. The partnership means resellers could tap into the vast installed base of Nortel NorStar phones, which have become a mainstay in many businesses since their introduction in 1988. “”They’re the de facto standard,”” said Greg Zweig, 3Com’s NBX product manager. “”For many people, they’re just ‘the business phone.'””

While the adoption of IP telephony is growing, the cost of upgrades has put off some smaller enterprises, particularly given the five-to-eight year depreciation cycles of most PBX networks. CITEL vice-president of sales John Drolet said this approach would give customers a way of migrating to IP telephony without the expense.

“”They don’t necessarily need to upgrade the handset,”” he said. “”It’s almost like a LAN versus a mainframe type of analogy: What we’ve done is get our gateway to take that relatively dumb device (the phone) and make it connect into our gateway, and then our gateway connects into the 3Com IP PBX.””

Zweig said resellers could find opportunities for the solution in a variety of vertical markets. Many schools, for example, have spent millions to put computers into classrooms. Now they want more phones for security reasons. “”They have these buildings now connected for data, but in many cases they’re paying a local telephone company to call between schools,”” he said. “”This allows them to eliminate that cost in between locations, and it allows them to leverage that infrastructure.””

Banks for car dealerships that have multiple locations but poor communications are among the other potential candidates, Zweig added

Jon Arnold, an IT and telecom analyst at the Toronto offices of Frost & Sullivan, said the technology did not represent true convergence but may appeal to smaller enterprises.

“”It’s good interim measure because right now the cost differential between IP phones and legacy is huge,”” he said. “”The apps are not there now to generate a compelling return.””

In many cases eliminating long-distance charges by moving calls over IP would be enough incentive, Arnold added.

“”We didn’t necessarily launch this product such that we expect every customer to take out every phone system they have in every location,”” Zweig said. “”Customers will decide for whatever reason — whether they’re moving their locations, whether the equipment they have is not in good working order any more, or whether they need to change the way they’re doing business and they need new applications.””

The IP Handset Gateway costs $189 per user and $3,000 for a 16-port unit and will be sold exclusively through 3Com’s Canadian resellers, the companies said.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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