Fonality Talks Up Low-Cost, Open-Source VoIP System

Founded in late 2003, Fonality this week is coming out of stealth mode with its PBXtra lineup, touting the system as an affordable IP telephony platform for smaller customers, particularly those with 10 to 100 employees.

Other vendors such as Switchvox, San Diego, and Pingtel, Woburn, Mass., are taking a similar tack, building partner programs to support their open-source VoIP systems.

PBXtra is based on the Asterisk open-source Linux phone system and includes support for both PSTN and VoIP services. Fonality has added features such as Web management tools and integration with Microsoft Outlook, said Chris Lyman, founder and CEO of Fonality, Culver City, Calif.

"We're looking at 'small-ish' businesses that need a 'big-ish' phone system but can't afford it," Lyman said.

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Pricing for the PBXtra system starts at $995, including hardware. Fonality bundles its software with Dell servers and offers two flavors: PBXtra Standard and PBXtra Call Center. Both include built-in features such as auto-attendant, voice mail and support for analog and Session Initiation Protocol-based handsets. The latter has features such as call recording and agent reporting. PBXtra Call Center version 2.0, due next quarter, adds listen-in, barge-in and supervisor features, he said.

Aside from its equipment, Fonality offers VoIP services that partners can resell for recurring commissions, he said.

An open-source VoIP platform can offer reduced prices and increased customization, said Dan Levine, CEO of CytexOne, a Fonality partner in New York. "Customers have the potential to save 50 percent vs. equivalent VoIP solutions," he said.

Levine said he chose to build his VoIP practice around Fonality instead of better-known vendors such as Avaya or Cisco Systems because it required a smaller investment in training and certification. "We don't need a specialized technician for it," he said.

CytexOne, an IBM shop, has contracted Fonality to build a customized version of its software to run on Big Blue's systems and will brand the solution CytexOne Voice, Levine said.

Fonality counts about 300 solution providers among its partner ranks and aims to hit 1,000 by year's end, Lyman said. In addition to the Fonality Reseller Program, the company offers its Installer Program, an initiative that sends partners leads for customers that bought products direct but require installation services.

Another provider of open-source VoIP systems, Switchvox, launched its channel program earlier this month. Like Fonality, Switchvox has built its offering around Asterisk. Its product is priced from $995.

Meanwhile, Pingtel in February started a channel program to support its own push into open-source VoIP. The company last spring contributed source code for its SIPxchange PBX, CallManager and Softphone, and launched SIPfoundry, an umbrella organization that brought together several open-source projects.