IP telephony vendors are turning their attention downmarket by honing their offerings to meet the needs of smaller
Mitel Networks and Cisco Systems, for example, recently introduced new products aimed at small businesses and branch offices.
Despite their size, small businesses and branch offices of larger companies still want to enjoy the employee productivity gains offered through IP telephony, such as support for remote workers, said Jeff May, senior systems engineer at Total Communications, a solution provider based in East Hartford, Conn.
"Except for the real small mom-and-pop organizations, any kind of office where you've got 15 to 20 phones,whether they're a branch office or stand-alone,at least wants proof that the system they're [moving] to will allow them to leverage IP telephony," May said. "They don't want a dead end."
Until now, IP telephony vendors have focused on enterprise customers, so small businesses and branch offices represent an untapped market for them, said Ronald Gruia, enterprise communications program leader at consulting firm Frost and Sullivan.
Mitel this month plans to ship the SX-200 ICP, an IP-capable version of its popular SX-200 PBX for small and midsize customers.
The new system can operate as a stand-alone or can be a networked IP-PBX for offices with as few as 20 users. Priced starting at $450 to $500 per user for 20 users, it supports IP and digital handsets and includes built-in voice-mail and auto-attendant features, said Paul Butcher, president and COO of Mitel, Kanata, Ontario.
Cisco, San Jose, Calif., recently extended its reach to smaller customers also by launching CallManager Express, a software upgrade that turns the vendor's access routers into IP PBXes for small businesses and branch offices.
CallManager Express, a scaled-down version of the vendor's CallManager call-processing software, is aimed at offices with fewer than 100 users. Licenses for CallManager Express range from $750 to $2,800, depending on the number of users.