8x8 Addresses the Mid-market
8x8, a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider based in San Jose, California, is moving forward on several fronts, with a focus on the needs and requirements of a growing base of mid-market business customers. This “mid-market focus” is driving the introduction of new capabilities that solve particular pain points for distributed businesses such as the new 8x8 Branch Office feature and more sophisticated contact center services (more on these below). It is also the impetus behind the company’s expansion into other world regions as more and more 8x8 customers, most of which are currently based in the U.S. and Canada, have multi-national operations that they need to tie into the corporate communications network, particularly customers with global call center operations.
In 2002, 8x8 entered the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) market as a service provider, offering residential Internet phone service under the Packet8 brand name. In 2004, the company introduced the Virtual Office hosted phone service to U.S. small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). By 2007, 8x8 was reporting rapid growth in the number and size of its business subscribers, a trend that has continued.
With its base of mid-market and distributed enterprise customers on the rise, 8x8 has begun expanding its coverage to other world regions, including Canada (January 2013) and then EMEA (October 2013) upon signing an agreement with European data center operator Interxion that operates 34 data centers across 11 European countries. In December 2013, 8x8 completed the acquisition of Voicenet Solutions, a hosted business VoIP phone service provider in the UK with an established based of more than 1,000 business customers and 30 white label partners. Just recently (March 2014), 8x8 gained a presence in the Asia Pacific region, launching its services platform at a new Hong Kong data center facility and bringing the number of data centers to five (including three U.S. locations). Additional facilities, including in Australia and South America, are planned for later in 2014.
Hosted/cloud services continue to gain in popularity as an alternative to purchasing an on-premises telephony system (more on this trend here and here), and 8x8 has already earned some important industry recognition as a top UCaaS provider. Market research firm Gartner positioned 8x8 as a market leader in its 2013 “Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in North America” (for the second year in a row). Infonetics’ annual North America Business VoIP Service Leadership Scorecard (2013) ranked 8x8 as one of the top hosted VoIP providers in North America. Data from Synergy Research Group cites 8x8 as the clear leader in the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) segment between Q1 2010 and Q1 2013, with 19% of the total cloud UC subscribers.
8x8 was also named to Forbes 2013 List of 100 Best Small Companies in America for strong sales and earnings growth, and 8x8 continues to report impressive financials. In the company’s third quarter of fiscal 2014 report (ended December 31, 2013), 8x8 indicated that revenue from business customers had increased 26% year-over-year, and the average number of subscribed services per new customer was up 20%. To date, 8x8 has 36,753 business customers.
8x8 Virtual Office Cloud-based UC Service
The 8x8 Virtual Office business phone and unified communications service targets businesses with 10-1,000 users in multiple locations, though it is possible to scale to even higher capacities. Customers choose from three user packages with varying features and functionality to suit different user requirements; seats can be mixed and matched as needed.
- Virtual Office, the standard user package, enables all popular business features such as call transfer and forwarding, 3-way audio conferencing, music-on-hold and ring groups to name just a few, but also includes more advanced features at no extra cost like voicemail-to-email notification, a meet-me conference bridge (15 participants) and the Virtual Office Mobile application for Android and iOS mobile devices.
- Virtual Office Pro extends the service with more collaborative functionality, adding support for online meetings, call recording and Internet Fax. The company’s Virtual Meeting Web conferencing service allows up to 15 users to participate in an audio/Web meeting and share desktop content. Customers can also use a webcam to add video and can upgrade to include 50 participants. As an option, 8x8 offers a room video conferencing solution for a flat monthly fee; participants can join using a computer with a webcam, a video phone, a telepresence system or a desk or cell phone (audio only).
- Virtual Contact Center is an add-on cloud-based contact center solution available to agents and supervisors through a Web browser. Key features include skills-based routing, multi-media interactions (telephone, email or Web chat), real-time monitoring and reporting, customer relationship management (CRM) and Workforce Management (WFM) integration, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), call recording, Web callback and more.
There has been no shortage of innovations and new capabilities coming out of 8x8. In just the last year, 8x8 made over 20 announcements, including a desktop softphone application, HIPAA/HITECH Compliance, a new Android-based UC client and significant updates to its contact center solution with additional CRM integrations, a virtual queuing capability and integration with Zendesk cloud customer service platform. The company also issued a number of new technology patents (now 92 patents total).
At the recent Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando, the UCaaS provider made several announcements, including the introduction of services in the Asia Pacific region, new features for multi-site businesses and a Workforce Management solution from partner Teleopti. More on these below.
- 8x8’s cloud UC services now extend into the Asia Pacific (APAC) region in order to provide services to 8x8's growing mid-market, multi-national customers that have operations in this region. 8x8’s Geo Routing technology dynamically routes calls to the nearest data center using location information such as a public IP address which results in the shortest/best media path for better reliability and call quality. The company is utilizing a Hong Kong data center facility owned by Pacnet, a leading managed services provider in APAC.
- 8x8 introduced two new Virtual Office enhancements aimed at enterprise customers with distributed office locations. The new 8x8 Branch Office feature allows an organization to utilize a single cloud UC platform, while segmenting and defining unique branch office instances for specific capabilities. For example, an auto attendant menu can be defined for each branch office for optimal call flow and routing. Also, the new Virtual Office Switchboard Pro is a Web-based receptionist application for managing incoming calls with simple mouse clicks to access phone features like call park, hold or transfer. Receptionists can view presence status information for each user in real-time and handle multiple active calls simultaneously.
- 8x8 continues to build its contact center services, now partnering with Teleopti to offer the Teleopti WFM solution as an add-on service to 8x8’s Virtual Contact Center. The application uses 8x8 Virtual Contact Center's call history data to drive staffing models and design schedules that optimize staff resources in order to improve operations, performance and customer service. Customers can choose from two levels, depending on their requirements: the Base subscription includes demand forecasting and scheduling, while the Advanced subscription adds a Real-Time Adherence feature for live visibility to agents.
On the Roadmap
8x8 will continue its forward momentum in 2014, with an eye on the needs of a growing mid-market customer base, as well as on the contact center as more and more businesses consider the benefits of adopting a cloud-based contact center service. 8x8 will also continue its international expansion by opening additional facilities, including in Australia and South America, in 2014.
Cisco Business Edition 7000 Targets Enterprises with 1,000-5,000 Users
Cisco has introduced a new Business Edition platform that is packaged and price-optimized for enterprises with 1,000 to 5,000 users (though there is no enforced capacity limit). The new Business Edition 7000 comes preloaded with a number of Cisco unified communications (UC) and collaborative applications and is ready-to-run without the complex installation, setup and management typically associated with Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager and add-on collaborative solutions. In addition, scaling up to add more users, devices and applications is more easily accomplished due to the system’s modular, stackable design.
The Business Edition 7000 preloaded server sells for about $23,500, with licenses for users and applications sold separately.
Like its predecessor, the Business Edition 6000 designed for the mid-market (to 1,000 users), the new Business Edition 7000 is a telephony and unified communications (UC) platform that uses VMware virtualization technology to consolidate multiple applications - voice, video, conferencing, messaging, instant messaging and presence, contact center and more - on a single platform for a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Business Edition platforms also support high availability features for mission critical environments and utilize a centralized branch deployment architecture that unifies dispersed offices and remote employees into a single, cohesive system.
To be specific, Business Edition 7000 uses VMware virtualization technology to run multiple Cisco applications together on Cisco’s UCS C240 M3 rack servers. Typical deployments will include two to four physical servers with four to six application instances per server to accommodate an organization within the “sweet spot” of 1,000-5,000 users. There is no imposed maximum on physical servers, however, so it is possible to configure and run larger deployments by using more Business Edition servers. For example, a 30,000 phone IP telephony deployment would require 11 instances of Cisco Unified Communications Manager which could run on 4-5 Business Edition 7000 servers.
The following applications come preloaded on the Business Edition 7000. The first four applications listed (Unified Communications Manager, Unity Connection, Jabber and Prime Collaboration Provisioning) are considered “foundational” applications since these are typically used together to deliver core voice and UC features; the remaining applications complement the core applications and are available and ready-to-activate as needed. Note that the customer must separately purchase the licenses for users and applications (Cisco User Connect Licenses (UCL) and Unified Workspace Licensing or UWL) since no licensing included with the Business Edition 7000. (The earlier Business Edition 6000 differs in that it includes a reduced-price 25-user starter license bundle designed to help smaller companies adopt the solution more affordably.)
- Unified Communications Manager (call processing)
- Unity Connection (voice and unified messaging)
- Jabber (client portfolio for IM & Presence)
- Prime Collaboration Provisioning (initial provisioning and day-2 adjustments)
- Paging Server (point-to-point and group audio paging)
- Unified Contact Center Express (agent-based services, self-service applications, ACD, IVR, CTI)
- Unified Attendant Consoles (receptionist/operator solution for incoming calls)
- Emergency Responder (tracks and routes emergency calls to a Public Safety Answering Point)
- Expressway (advanced video integration; licensing included in some of the Cisco UWL options)
- Telepresence Conductor (conference resource management)
- TelePresence Video Communication Server (4-way HD video conferencing; shipping May 2014)
- TelePresence Server Virtual Machine (in next update)
- TelePresence Management Suite (in next update)
Additionally, Business Edition 7000 can integrate with Cisco's cloud-based WebEx Web conferencing and collaboration service. Customers can also deploy a subset of Cisco-approved virtualized third party UC applications selected from the Cisco Developer Network, Marketplace Solutions Catalog for Collaboration.
Cisco's Business Edition 7000 has been orderable since December 20, 2013, but was formally announced at the recent Enterprise Connect 2014 conference event in Orlando, Florida. The new version joins Cisco's Business Edition 6000 for mid-market businesses (to 1,000 users). Two earlier Business Edition products, Business Edition 5000 (to 500 users) and Business Edition 3000 (to 300 users) are no longer available for new sales.
Cloud Partner Programs Emerge
Traditional telephony and unified communications manufacturers continue to move into the hosted/cloud UC market, with many now offering their premises-based telephony solutions as a subscription-based service.
A number of vendors are already reporting positive financials from the cloud side of their business. In Mitel’s second quarter fiscal 2014 review, the company cited strong cloud sales with the installed cloud customer base growing 70% year-over-year to about 337,000 total cloud users. Interactive Intelligence’s full year 2013 results indicated strong order growth, particularly in cloud-based orders which were up 87% year-over-year and now represent 50% of the company’s total orders. ShoreTel’s first quarter fiscal 2014 report revealed a 32% increase in ShoreTel Sky cloud revenue year-over-year.
Encouraging financial reports from these vendors and others, coupled with analyst forecasts that indicate strong growth in the hosted/cloud UC market, make it certain that vendors will be investing heavily in hosted/cloud offers going forward. To this end, new partner programs focused on selling cloud-based solutions are emerging. The programs are designed to provide training, tools and flexible compensation models that will encourage partners to add subscription-based services to their traditional telephony equipment portfolios.
Digium Cloud Agent Program
Digium recently expanded its Cloud Agent Program, adding multiple levels of participation for telephony agents to sell Digium’s Switchvox Cloud, a hosted business telephony service introduced in March 2013 for small and medium businesses (more on Switchvox Cloud here). While Digium has been primarily using its existing channel and direct sales force to sell cloud services, the company is now expanding the agent program by offering access to Web-based training, quote and configuration tools, product promotions, sales support and other benefits that make participation more attractive (cloud Agents can also sell Digium’s premises-based products). There are three Digium Cloud Agent program levels and associated compensation models:
- Master Agents manage partners and subagents who sell services to business customers. Monthly, recurring commissions are paid directly by Digium as long as the end user remains a Digium customer. Master Agents are required to bill $250,000 annually.
- Premier Agents provide Digium services directly to business customers. Monthly, recurring commissions are paid directly by Digium as long as the end user remains a Digium customer. Premier Agents are required to bill $50,000 annually.
- Subagents work with a Maser Agent to provide services directly to business customers. Monthly, recurring commissions are paid by a Digium Master Agent. Subagents have no annual billing commitment.
Fonality Partner Exchange
Fonality recently announced a simplified partner program with three levels, Referral, Authorized and Certified (down from four levels previously). The so-called “No Bull” Partner Program is designed to reduce complexity and potential partner conflict as the company looks to increase channel-generated revenue to more than 50% of its business in 2014. Fonality is also offering upfront payments along with recurring commissions to help offset costs and educate partners that are transitioning to a subscription-based sales model.
A new Fonality Partner Exchange online community is available to support partners with increased resources such as training, sales tools, best practices and content; the online portal uses knowledge management technology from Bloomfire.
Fonality’s telephony and unified communications products target small and mid-sized businesses with 10-250 employees and can be deployed as hardware and software on the customer premises or as a hosted/cloud communications solution. Fonality is unique in that customers can take advantage of a subscription-based pay-as-you-go model with either deployment method (premises- or cloud-based), or opt for a one-time payment (more on the Fonality solutions here). This flexibility allows partners to design a solution that best meets each customer’s particular requirements. Fonality is also working with partners to help customers move from a premises-based solution to a cloud service, and vice versa, at no additional cost.
The revamped program offers partners multiple ways to join (as agents or resellers), along with revenue-sharing opportunities and marketing support at both the Authorized and Certified levels.
- Referral Partners simply pass leads to Fonality and are compensated (per user) when a lead results in a closed sale.
- Authorized Partners can transact as either agents or resellers with simple sales requirements to retain this partner level. As agents, these partners are responsible for the sales process, co-selling alongside a dedicated channel manager; they generate leads and are compensated if a lead results in a closed sale (compensation is upfront and recurring). In the agent model, Fonality is responsible for customer billing and support. As resellers, these partners “own” the customer throughout pre- and post-sale activities. Reseller partners purchase discounted hardware and software from Fonality and resell this directly to the customer, typically with their own value-added services in the mix; they are responsible for customer billing.
- Certified Partners complete a sales certification program and take the lead in the sales and marketing of Fonality solutions to customers and the prospect base. These partners participate in the entire sales process, performing customer on-boarding and product implementations and providing technical support. Certified partners also have the ability to act as resellers or agents. The partner (acting as a reseller) purchases discounted hardware and software from Fonality and resells this directly to the customer, typically with their own value-added services in the mix; they are responsible for customer billing.
ShoreTel Champion Partner Program – Cloud Track
ShoreTel has expanded its Champion Partner Program to make it easier for channel partners to participate in the growing hosted/cloud unified communications market. More than 600 current partners (and future partners) can take advantage of new tools and training to sell ShoreTel Sky cloud UC services in addition to ShoreTel’s premises-based solutions. Partners can choose from three new cloud partner “tiers” and associated compensation plans designed for varying levels of involvement in sales process, as follows:
- The “Referral Tier” is designed for IT consultants or technology services companies that provide leads/prospects to ShoreTel. These referral partners receive a one-time commission payment for new ShoreTel Sky clients.
- The “Approved Tier” is designed for VARs and systems integrators who identify and qualify prospects for ShoreTel Sky services, working closely with ShoreTel’s sales team that will ultimately close the sale. These partners make an annual revenue volume commitment and are paid a percentage of the recurring revenue from these sales.
- The “Enabled Tier” is for VARs and systems integrators that want to manage the sales process from beginning to end, identifying prospects and selling services directly. These partners make an annual revenue volume commitment and earn a higher percentage of the recurring revenue.
New Desk Phones Continue to Enter the Market
There has been a lot of debate about the future of the office desktop telephone. Studies continue to show that more and more employees are coming to work equipped with their own mobile phone and that “bring your own device” remains the general trend. Many market analysts are reporting that desk phone sales are relatively flat or even declining; other industry experts suggest the IP extensions market will grow for some period of time (sales of earlier TDM-based phones will decrease). Recent statistics from market research firm MZA reveal modest growth with the IP extensions/licenses market up by just 2% year-over-year in fourth quarter 2013. So, are traditional desktop phones slowly being replaced by the growing preference for mobile devices, or will workers actually require multiple device options, including a desk phone, for the foreseeable future?
Perhaps as generations go by, the desktop phone will become obsolete, but for now, it remains an important alternative. There are still many relevant use cases for a traditional hard-wired phone that is “always on” and that can ensure high quality audio and speakerphone capabilities. Wired phones also make the most sense for conference rooms and common areas like hallways, lobbies or cafeterias where deploying a PC/headset or mobile device is not practical.
Nevertheless, even as the debate goes on, business communications manufacturers continue to introduce new low-end, mid-range and advanced business telephones. Many of the new entry-level phones come with more sophisticated functionality such as support for Web applications and Gigabit Ethernet. New high-end media phones may integrate a telephone with video and/or Internet content and access to popular social media applications. Some so-called ‘smart desk phones’ incorporate an Android operating system for running Android applications, allowing users to access features and functionality commonly associated with today’s smartphones and tablets.
The large number of new desktop IP phones showcased at the recent Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando is a good indication that desk phones are here to stay, at least for now. Read more below on the latest entries.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise introduces a new family of Premium DeskPhones for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and mid- to large organizations. Notable features include a contemporary design, wideband audio, high quality speakerphone, integrated Bluetooth support (8068 IP model), add-on modules and accessories, an alphabetic keyboard, navigator and programmable soft keys and access to applications from Alcatel-Lucent’s OmniPCX or OpenTouch communications platforms. All three IP models have built-in dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and support Power over Ethernet, but with varying display types and contextual and programmable keys: the 8068 IP Premium DeskPhone ($610 US List) has a larger color display and integrated Bluetooth support; the 8038 and 8028 IP Premium DeskPhones sell for $470 and $380, respectively. Two new digital models are similar in ergonomics to their IP counterparts: the 8029 Premium DeskPhone ($300) and the 8039 Premium DeskPhone ($430). The new Premium DeskPhones will replace Alcatel-Lucent’s earlier IP Touch 4xx8 and 4xx9 desktop phones.
Digium has added a fourth phone model to its D-series IP desk phone family designed for the company’s Asterisk open source PBX software, Switchvox IP-PBX and Switchvox Cloud hosted business telephony service. The new entry-level, 2-line D45 phone with Gigabit support ($179 MSRP) joins three other models in the D-series, including the entry-level D40 (without Gigabit support; $129), the mid-range D50 ($189) and the D70 ($299) for executives and administrators. The phones are tightly integrated with the Digium system, so users have direct access to Asterisk or Switchvox features from the phone for functions like call recording and call parking, visual voicemail, user presence, call queuing information, custom phonebooks, searchable directories and click-to-dial. All D-series phones support HD Voice, multiple line appearances, plug-and-play provisioning, Power-over-Ethernet, context-sensitive soft keys and other popular features.
Grandstream Networks has introduced a new series of color-screen Gigabit HD IP desktop phones for SMBs and enterprises. All models are multi-line and have XML programmable softkeys, BLF extension keys, dual Gigabit network ports, multi-way voice conferencing, Electronic Hook Switch (EHS) support for Plantronics headsets and are preloaded with weather and currency exchange real-time Web applications. The 3-line GXP2130 with 2.8-inch color LCD screen sells for just $99. The more advanced 4- and 6-line GXP2140/2160 phones ($139/$159) have a larger 4.3-inch color display, more programmable keys, support for add-on modules and Bluetooth and USB capabilities. Use of the open standards based SIP protocol makes the GXP phones interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services.
Mitel is introducing four new 6800i series SIP business desk phones that build on the earlier Aastra 6700i series (Aastra is a leading enterprise communications manufacturer that recently merged with Mitel). The new series supports Aastra’s high definition Hi-Q™ audio technology, XML capabilities and an eco-friendly design that incorporates recycled and biodegradable material and energy-saving features (PoE or an optional Efficiency Level “V” compliant power adaptor). Use of the open standards-based SIP protocol makes the 6800i phones interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services. Models include the 2-line 6863i ($99.99 MSRP) for light telephone users, the 9-line 6865i ($179.99) with dual Gigabit ports, the 9-line 6867i ($229.99) with advanced speakerphone, large color LCD display, optional detachable keyboard and expansion modules and the 12-line, color-screen 6869i ($299.99) for power users. The 6800i series will begin shipping in mid-April.
ShoreTel has begun shipping the ShoreTel 400 series SIP desk phones for use with the company’s ShoreTel Sky cloud UC service, enabling channel partners to provide an end-to-end ShoreTel cloud-based solution (previously, ShoreTel Sky (formerly M5 Networks) supported only Cisco 7900 series IP phones). Three ShoreTel 400 series models are available for use with ShoreTel Sky, all with 8-line appearances, full duplex speakerphone, Electronic Hook Switch (EHS) support and other popular features. The ShoreTel IP485G ($429 list price) has a large, color, backlit display and built-in Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000Mbps) switch. The IP480G ($369) has a grayscale display and Gigabit Ethernet support; the IP480 ($299) is similar, but houses a 10/100Mbps Ethernet switch. ShoreTel introduced this SIP-based desk phone portfolio in 2013 for the company’s premises-based IP-PBX (ShoreTel 14 and beyond); a fourth, more basic 2-line model (the IP420 for $189) is also available for premises-based deployments.
snom has expanded its 7xx SIP desk phone series with a new entry-level model, the snom 715. The new desktop phone has some advanced features such as a dual port Gigabit Ethernet switch, HD audio and a USB connector (for a Bluetooth headset or other connections), but sells at a competitive price ($139 MSRP). snom’s 7xx series portfolio also includes the entry-level 710 ($129), mid-range 720 ($219) and the higher-end, color-screen 760 ($329) that offer a range of capabilities and price points to fit varying requirements and budgets. Use of the open standards-based SIP protocol makes the snom phones interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services.
Yealink Network Technology Ltd, a China-based voice and video over IP phone designer and manufacturer, has added a new desktop model to its latest SIP-T4 Series of IP phones. The new T48G IP Phone designed for executives and business professionals features a large, 7-inch color touchscreen, built-in Bluetooth headset support (via USB), dual port Gigabit connectivity and HD voice among other features. Other models in the series include the T46G color Gigabit phone, the T42G Gigabit phone and the more basic T41P. Use of the open standards-based SIP protocol makes the Yealink phones interoperable with a wide range of SIP-compatible telephony systems and hosted/cloud services.
Samsung Telecommunications America Rolls Out New Products for the Enterprise
Samsung Telecommunications America, LLC (STA), a Dallas-based subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., has been expanding its North American portfolio with new solutions for the enterprise, including a new server-based telephony system, a Wireless LAN solution and two contact center solutions. Traditionally, STA has targeted small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) with its OfficeServ 7000 IP-PBX family and earlier Samsung iDCS digital phone systems, so the new enterprise-focused solutions represent the company’s entry into the mid- and larger enterprise communications market.
Samsung Communication Manager
The new Samsung Communication Manager, technically referred to as the SCM IPX-S500/XAR, is a SIP-based all-in-one communications solution with enterprise-grade call control and embedded, license-activated applications for Unified Communications (UC), conferencing and mobility – all on a single Linux-based server that is designed for easy installation and management.
Samsung sees multi-location companies with 500-2,000 registered users as a good target market initially, but SCM can actually handle up to 3,000 users per server (SIP phones), or up to 6,000 users in an Active-Active redundancy mode by which two servers are configured identically with the traffic load balanced between them at all times. The Active-Active mode can provide geo-redundancy if needed. An Active-Standby mode is also available for automatic switchover should the primary SCM server be disrupted. Samsung’s Ubigate iBG Series Gateways can be tied in to connect TDM interfaces, namely analog station ports (FXS), analog trunk ports (FXO) and T1/PRI trunks.
A range of workplace productivity applications are embedded on the SCM server and easily license-activated as needed. Among these are Unified Messaging (Samsung’s Unified Messaging Service), Call Center (ACD Lite), Audio Conferencing (a built-in meet-me conferencing bridge), Samsung’s Mobile Extension (MOBEX), Call Move (a phone feature to move calls from a desk phone to a mobile phone) , System Monitoring, Call Trace (for tracking malicious calls), the Wireless Enterprise (WE) Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) Client (see below) and the WE Work Mobile UC Client (currently available outside of North America). Third-party SIP-based applications can also be incorporated.
Customers can choose from four Samsung SMT-i5000 Series IP phones for entry-level, mid-range and advanced needs, including the high-end i5343 executive model, a full duplex speakerphone with color display, wideband audio, Gigabit Ethernet ports, WiFi and Bluetooth support and a USB camera option. The entry-level SMT-i3105 is also available.
Wireless Enterprise (WE) VoIP
Samsung’s new Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) solution, known as Wireless Enterprise (WE) VoIP, enables seamless mobile service between enterprise and service provider mobile networks. In other words, calls are automatically and transparently handed-off between the enterprise wireless network and a cellular network, allowing users to continue conversations as they move in and out of their office location. The solution also allows companies to better manage cellular wireless expenses since the corporate wireless network is used for voice calls instead of more expensive cellular minutes. Regardless of the network that the call is using (cellular or corporate WiFi), calls will be routed through the Samsung phone system (either SCM or OfficeServ), then transmitted accordingly.
The solution is comprised of Wireless Access Points (APs) and WLAN Controllers deployed throughout a customer’s environment. Samsung’s Enterprise WLAN Controller (WEC8500) supports as many as 500 APs and 10,000 client devices; up to 12 controllers (six active and six standby) can be connected to support up to 3,000 APs. An SMB controller is also available (WEC8050) that supports up to 75 APs and 1,500 client devices. The Samsung WLAN Manager monitors and tracks all APs and controllers.
Users can communicate using Samsung’s wireless desktop phone (the SMT-i5343) for internal communications or by downloading the WE VoIP FMC Client smartphone application to an Android-based device. The Android device functions like an extension of the phone system, providing the user with single number reach and access to business phone features such as conference calling, transfer and hold functions. Equipped with the Android mobile device, a user can communicate over the private WiFi network when in the office, then continue conversations over the public WiFi or 4G/LTE network when leaving the office, or vice versa. The user can also take advantage of the Call Move phone feature on SMT-i5000 Series IP phones to move a call between the desktop phone and a mobile device.
WE VoIP is available on the Google Play Store as a free download and requires a license on the SCM or OfficeServ to activate the client application. WE VoIP, chosen as one of six finalists for the Best of Enterprise Connect award, differs from most competitors FMC solutions in that the application uses the native dialer and directory of the smartphone. The user does not have to open a specific application to make a phone call, making the application more intuitive to use.
Enterprise Contact Center
Samsung Contact Center Pro (SCC Pro) and Samsung Call Management Suite (Samsung CMS) are two new contact center solutions designed for business customers that require more than just basic inbound call center features. Both products are compatible with Samsung OfficeServ 7000 and SCM phone systems.
SCC Pro supports inbound and outbound communications and enables more advanced capabilities such as multiple call routing modes, skills-based routing with 9,999 skill levels, a fully scriptable IVR and customizable wallboards. Agents and supervisors can communicate via remote PC, tablet or smartphone in addition to a desktop phone. SCC Pro supports 500 agents and supervisors and 100 queues.
Samsung CMS includes modules for call costing (CMS Report), call recording (CMS Record) and call center analytics (CMS Contact for OfficeServ only). Together these provide visibility into the contact center operation through real-time and historical reports, quality monitoring, call statistics and analytics that are used for resource planning and forecasting – all of which ultimately helps to streamline operations and improve customer service.
In recent news:
8x8 makes several announcements related to new hosted/cloud UC services for distributed businesses such as the new 8x8 Branch Office feature and more sophisticated contact center services, as well as expansion into other world regions. See the related write-up “8x8 Addresses the Mid-market” for details.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise officially launches OpenTouch Personal Cloud to deliver applications-as-a-service for any size enterprise and any vendors’ infrastructure (an overlay approach for an on-premises or cloud-based solution). The first three cloud-based applications include audio/Web conferencing, Video Store (video storing/sharing) and the Team Share file sharing tool and are available to early adopter business partners in Australia, France, Germany, Spain, UK and the United States. In other news, Alcatel-Lucent updates the OpenTouch 2.0 UC&C application, adding native video support, multiple device support per user on a single license and more telephony capabilities. The company also has a new line of Premium DeskPhones compatible with the OmniPCX Office and OmniPCX Enterprise systems (see related write-up “New Desk Phones Continue to Enter the Market” for details).
Avaya enhances its Customer Experience Management enterprise applications, including the Aura Experience Portal 7.0 for multi-channel inbound and outbound self-service and contact routing (new two-way SMS and email, new zoning capabilities), Proactive Outreach Manager for managing outbound communications (new agent-based predictive dialing) and Intelligence Customer Routing (finer control of service levels). Also, the next release of the Avaya Aura Collaboration Environment due out later in 2014 will support simplified contact management, real-time speech analysis, WebRTC and more.
Cisco introduces the Business Edition 7000 virtualized telephony platform, price-optimized for typical Cisco collaboration deployments in the 1,000-5,000 user range. See related write-up “Cisco Business Edition 7000 Targets Enterprises with 1,000-5000 Users” for details. Cisco has also made series of announcements in the video collaboration space, furthering its goal to put video on every desktop and in every meeting room. Several new all-in-one room systems for small, medium and large rooms (MX200G2, MX300G2, MX700, MX800) and new camera technologies (SX10, SX20, SX80) will roll out over the next three months (April-June 2014). Cisco will integrate the Intelligent Proximity feature with several of these new endpoints. In other news, Cisco plans to partner with Google to bring Google Apps to Cisco products and to embed Cisco WebEx natively in Google Chrome browsers. And, Cisco announced an investment of $1 billion over next two years to enter the cloud computing services market, competing with Amazon and others.
CounterPath announces the Bria Cloud service for SMBs. IT managers can deploy, manage and provision softphone clients across all desktop, tablet and mobile devices through this subscription-based offering that is available directly from the company's online store. The service includes access to download and install Bria softphone clients for desktop (Mac and Windows), tablets (iOS and Android) and smartphones (iOS, Android and BlackBerry), as well as cloud-based provisioning tools and ongoing updates for softphone features and new device support. The Bria Cloud Solution membership ranges from US$15.50-$34.25 per year, depending on type and number of device requirements. Bria Cloud is available directly from a number of VoIP Channels, including VoIP Supply, The Telecom Spot, Interwork Technologies, TeleDynamics, ABP Tech, Arrow S3, NACR, World Telecom Group (WTG) and others, or directly from CounterPath.
Digium expands its Cloud Agent program. Partners selling the company’s Switchvox Cloud subscription-based service can select from multiple levels of participation, including Master Agent, Premier Agent and Subagent levels. See related write-up “Cloud Partner Programs Emerge” for details. Digium also introduces a new entry-level IP phone in its D-series; the new 2-line D45 phone has Gigabit support, HD Voice and plug-and-play deployment ($179 USD). See related write-up “New Desk Phones Continue to Enter the Market.”
Epygi adds new phone options for its SMB customers, certifying the Akuvox HD IP phones, video phones and door phones for customers that have deployed the Epygi IP PBX. Akuvox offers six IP phones for different customer requirements, including two touch-screen video phones for 3-way video conferencing. Akuvox founder Dr. Jack Zhuang was formerly the Chief Architect of Cisco/Webex and CTO of Yealink.
Fonality has simplified its partner program and introduced the new Fonality Partner Exchange online community to support partners with training, sales tools and content as part of an effort to increase channel-generated revenue to more than 50% of its business in 2014. See related write-up “Cloud Partner Programs Emerge” for details. Fonality is also conducting a Trade-in Program for businesses with legacy Nortel, Mitel, Cisco and Avaya PBXs, offering a 10% discount on Fonality’s cloud-based or on-premises solutions in exchange for the old equipment.
Grandstream Networks introduces the third model in its latest series of color-screen Gigabit HD IP desktop phones for SMBs and enterprises; the new 3-line GXP2130 has advanced features at an affordable price of $99. See related write-up “New Desk Phones Continue to Enter the Market.” In other news, Grandstream SIP products for the enterprise, SMB and residential markets have been certified for the Metaswitch hosted IP telephony platform, and the GXP21xx color, Gigabit phones are certified for the Elastix open source appliance software based on Asterisk.
Mitel announces MiCloud Enterprise Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS), a white label solution that allows channel partners to offer the subscription-based Mitel services, along with their own portfolio, under their own brand. The offer is available in U.S., with other markets to follow. A number of Mitel partners have already signed up, including Blue Violet Networks, Core Technologies, Eon Networks, Fulton Communications, JEM Communications, Qbase, Towner Communications Systems, Transwest and TSI Global Companies. In other news, Mitel has acquired contact center call recording supplier OAISYS, the latest in a series of major acquisitions in last year including prairieFyre (contact center) and Aastra (enterprise communications). Mitel also introduces the new 6800i series SIP business phones that build on an earlier phone series from Aastra. See related write-up “New Desk Phones Continue to Enter the Market.”
NEC enhances its UC for Business (UCB) contact center software. Release 7.0 introduces a new TouchPoint user interface for agents and supervisors with real-time information and ‘context-aware’ functionality, as well as support for Latin American Spanish, German, and Russian languages. R7.0 also adds Outdial for Lync (a new outbound campaign tool for customers using Microsoft Lync), a customer feedback collection capability (surveys) and database replication for disaster recovery scenarios. UCB is supported on NEC’s UNIVERGE SV8100, SV8300, SV8500 and UNIVERGE 3C platforms.
RingCentral enhances its mobile client application for iOS and Android devices, adding more real-time call handling options – users can press a button to flip calls (move an active call to a desk phone, softphone or mobile phone), transfer, park or pick-up calls and turn on call recording to record an active call. New RingCentral Communication Expert (RCCE) training is designed to help partners increase technical and product knowledge, including about the latest RingCentral Office Enterprise Edition service with Meetings video conferencing and screen sharing technology. In other news, RingCentral announces the expansion of its Denver office with plans to double the local staff count in support of growing number of large enterprise customers. The company will also introduce new internal programs and customer survey initiatives designed to help the company to maintain quality service levels.
Samsung Telecommunications America expands its North American portfolio with new solutions for the enterprise, including a new server-based telephony system, a Wireless LAN solution and two contact center solutions. See related write-up “Samsung Telecommunications America Rolls Out New Products for the Enterprise” for details.
ShoreTel introduces ShoreTel for Salesforce and ShoreTel Sky for Salesforce, two new applications that provide integration between the Salesforce CRM system and the ShoreTel premises-based IP-PBX and ShoreTel Sky cloud-based phone service. The integration aligns phone system data and sales activity data for logging, tracking, measuring and reporting on calls and activities within a single application. This key data can be used to streamline operations, improve collaboration and optimize customer service. In other news, ShoreTel is now shipping its own 400 series SIP desk phones for use with ShoreTel Sky cloud UC service. See related write-up “New Desk Phones Continue to Enter the Market.” ShoreTel has also expanded its Champion Partner Program to make it easier for current and future channel partners to participate in selling its ShoreTel Sky hosted/cloud subscription-based service. See related write-up “Cloud Partner Programs Emerge” for more detail.
Star2Star announces the new StarSIP AlwaysUp SIP trunking service with built-in disaster recovery. The new service operates over Star2Star’s Constellation Network that can automatically reroute calls to an alternate business location or home or mobile phone in the event of a power outage or loss of Internet connectivity. The optional StarSIP AlwaysUp User package includes one Direct Inward Dial phone number that is configurable for automatic failover, the StarScope 2 call management application and one StarPhone for iPhone license. The company also introduces two new solutions, the StarContact customer interaction application that integrates CRM systems with Star2Star's cloud UC solution and the new StarGuard Secure Voice cloud service for encrypting telephone VoIP data.
Tadiran Telecom has announced a 'Bring Your Own Cloud' approach that enables customers of its Aeonix software-based Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) platform to select a public Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to host the Aeonix solution, unlike competing cloud solutions that restrict customers to the provider’s own cloud infrastructure. The first CSP to support Aeonix is Amazon Web Services (AWS); other CSPs are expected to follow. Aeonix can support as many as 25,000 users (over 100,000 users in a future release) on multiple servers so it is particularly well suited to large, distributed organizations. As such, customers with a distributed network will likely use AWS as a private cloud to provide a disaster recovery option for locally-deployed Aeonix servers (an Aeonix image is implemented from the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud Web service). The combination of AWS as a private cloud option and Aeonix servers installed on-site creates a hybrid cloud solution that eliminates points of failure and ensures business continuity. Tadiran Telecom is currently using the Aeonix hybrid cloud deployment internally between international offices and cites cost savings and improved reliability due to the Amazon connection.
Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications) will be introducing the OpenScape Business X1 appliance for the under-30 user segment; the all-in-one solution will support voice and UC capabilities, including the new myPortal To Go application for Android and Apple iOS devices. General Availability is scheduled for June 2014. Unify is also enhancing two applications in its enterprise portfolio: OpenScape UC and OpenScape Voice with features that address ease of use, security and reliability (estimated GA is July 2014). In other news, Unify outlined a new delivery roadmap for its Ansible collaboration platform; pre-beta trials are underway, with official beta trials set for May 2014 and general availability scheduled for October 2014. The first release of Ansible will be delivered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) application. A second phase, due out by the end of 2014, will introduce ‘connectors’ to on-premises OpenScape Voice platforms; a third phase, expected by mid-2015, will enable integration with Unify’s OpenScape Business and OpenScape 4000.
Vertical Communications enhances its Wave IP UC platform with new Release 4.5 software. The license-activated ViewPoint Mobile 2.0 client has an integrated SIP softphone that allows mobile users, equipped with an iOS or Android device, to make and receive calls through the Wave IP system over a Wi-Fi connection. Calls are handled over a low-cost Wi-Fi network instead of the cellular network, reducing communications costs since minutes from the cellular calling plan are not being used. Additional R4.5 features include Contact Center Queue Callback, enhanced emergency alerts, customized personal statuses and integration with Polycom SoundStation conference phones and Spectralink 8400 series wireless handsets. Vertical also updates the MBX IP phone system with new R2.5 software that adds an IP Attendant, a browser-based IP Softphone and a wireless LAN handset.
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