Supercom Canada Ltd. has gone into the communications appliance business, striking a manufacturing and distribution deal with a private company owned by the head of Mitel Networks.

“”We are trying something new,”” Edman Lau, a Supercom senior product manager, said of the partnership with MKC

Networks Corp.

Supercom is making MKC’s 7000 ICS Linux-based voice-over-IP servers for small and medium businesses, which are powered by MKC-developed software. They will be carried by some of Supercom’s 3,000 Canadian resellers.

The ICS (for integrated communications server) is an “”office in box””, which includes a gateway, local area network and four- or eight-port switches. Users will need session initiation protocol (SIP)-based phones.

It’s the first time the hardware maker has ventured out of the PC desktop world in its 15- year history, Lau said.

Initially the company is looking for 50 Supercom resellers who have experience setting up local networks to sell the 7000 ICS and its brother, the 7000 CS, a software-only version for firms that want to install the applications on their own hardware.

MKC is owned by Terry Matthews, who is chairman of Mitel Networks, which makes enterprise and small business communications solutions, and March Networks, which makes digital video security equipment.

As the hardware designer, MKC was looking for a partner that had the capability to manufacture the appliance, said Steve Robinson, MKC’s vice-president of sales and marketing.

The fact that Supercom has a reseller network “”was very much a factor”” in its choice, he said.

“”We had another potential suppler of servers, but they were a purely a manufacturer. Supercom brought the channel with them, which was very interesting to us.

“”When we first looked at them the primary goal was to have their channel, and it was a pleasant revelation that we could get the servers from them as well.””

He said potential customers include companies with several locations who could take advantage of secure, toll-free long-distance calling over the Internet. Each 7000 ICS server can handle up to 20 users a site (the 7000 CS will go up to 50). The application’s Web-based interface offers centralized management.

Pricing works out to less than $150 a seat for the 7000 ICS, Robinson said.

Lau said Supercom is now educating its VARs about the products and setting up a training and certification process.

While the partnership doesn’t give Supercom resellers exclusive access to the products, Robinson said MKC wants to expand into the U.S., Europe and South America before it thinks about adding another VAR network here.

“”We’re hoping the volume of sales is so high we won’t have to look for another distributor,”” he said.

Supercom also announced it will distribute the Powerline networking products of Vancouver-based Corinex Global Corp., a line of devices that are plugged into standard electrical outlets to create a 14 Mbps wired or wireless local area network.

“”Many people as why do you need something that only communicates at 14 Mbps?”” said Lau. “”We believe there are situations in hotels, older buildings where you need (this) to complete the whole loop through a local area network. In some cases wireless may not work well from the basement to the second floor, but these will work within 10 minutes of installation.””

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