VoiceCon Sets VoIP Stage


VoIP vendors such as Avaya, Sprint, Toshiba America Information Systems and Mitel are slated to unveil new products and services at VoiceCon Fall 2006, a San Francisco conference run by CRN publisher CMP Technology.

Sprint plans to announce new managed services based on Avaya's IP communications technology, the latest step in a partnership formed by the two companies last fall to offer hosted versions of Avaya's IP telephony and contact center applications.

The partnership is part of Avaya's overall strategy to increase channel presence around hosted VoIP offerings, said Lawrence Byrd, director of IP telephony and mobility at Avaya, Basking Ridge, N.J.

"When you work with service providers, you get their strength, their channels. It's all part of the single strategy of making the hosted choice available to our customers," Byrd said.

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Avaya also plans to roll out the latest version of its teleworker solution, VPN- remote for IP Phones 2.0, which for the first time adds support for third-party VPNs, including technology from Cisco Systems, San Jose, Calif., and Juniper Networks, Sunnyvale, Calif.

As embedded software for Avaya's VoIP phones, VPNremote will build a secure tunnel over the Internet to enable remote workers to tie into a VoIP system without additional VPN hardware at the local site. VPNremote is available now for an estimated street price of $500, including a VoIP phone.

The addition of third-party support gives channel partners the ability to build multivendor solutions for the growing number of mobile users, said Lyhn Haller, president of Unified Data, a San Francisco-based solution provider.

"Probably the biggest change I've seen in technology in the last five years is the amount of virtual workers," Haller said.

Avaya also is targeting SMBs and small branch offices of larger enterprises with the latest version of its one-X Quick Edition, a product that embeds IP-PBX functionality into IP phones, eliminating the need for a separate server through peer-to-peer technology.

New features include teleworker capabilities that give remote users full-feature access to the system, as well as centralized provisioning to ease deployments that tie remote branches back to headquarters. Pricing for one-X Quick Edition, available now, starts at $495 for a phone and the software. Meanwhile, Toshiba's Telecommunication Systems Division (TSD) is launching the Strata CIX40, a hybrid digital/IP system that supports up to 16 stations and eight IP channels. The system is scheduled to ship at the end of the month at $300 to $500 per user.

"It's going to open up a great many opportunities because now it gives us a full IP solution for small customers," said Dave Ansehl, president of Advanced Technology Consultants, a Toshiba-exclusive partner based in St. Louis. "SMBs want IP if it's available to them at a reasonable price."

The hybrid system gives small businesses the flexibility to migrate to VoIP at their own pace, salvaging investments they've already made in digital handsets but enabling remote workers to tap in via IP, said David Fridley, senior product manager of IP telephony at Toshiba's TSD, Irvine, Calif., which sells exclusively through channel partners.

Also at the show, Mitel, Ottawa, is updating its Mobility Solutions portfolio for its 3300 and SX-200 IP Communications Platforms.

With Teleworker 4.0, remote users no longer require a VPN for secure access to a VoIP system, said Dave Spence, Mitel's Mobility Solutions product manger. Instead, calls use 128-bit AES encryption via the vendor's Managed Applications Server for security, he said.

With Mitel's Your Assistant Softphone, features such as video, collaboration, instant messaging and drag-and-drop conferencing are all available without a VPN, he said.

Mitel also is launching Quick Conference, a SIP-based conferencing tool aimed at SMB customers. The software, which runs on industry-standard hardware, supports audio conferencing for up to 32 participants, or eight participants with four calls each. At $350 per port, the new offering should provide an attractive, cost-effective alternative to conferencing services, which can cost as much as 30 cents to 40 cents per user per minute, Spence said.

With the latest version of its Mobile Extension technology, Mitel also is improving capabilities that enable any mobile, home or wireless device to tie into its voice systems. New features include the ability to initiate conference calls from any device over the corporate network.