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Publisher's Outlook
January 2003


Rich Tehrani

Indian Summer

BY RICH TEHRANI


Websters defines Indian Summer as period of warm or mild weather in late autumn or early winter. Recently I had a chance to drive up the New England coast during this years Indian summer while meeting many companies in the industry. On my two-day trip, I eventually logged 400+ miles visiting companies in and around the Boston area. Between the mild weather and finding time to lunch at my favorite Massachusetts-based restaurant -- Legal Seafood -- Id say the trip was great. Getting back to the subject at hand, I did see a diverse group of companies and the indication I received from most everyone is that the fourth quarter is looking good and that next year should be better than this one.

AUDIOCODES

The first company I met with was AudioCodes, a telecom company in great financial condition when you consider that they have over 100 million dollars in cash and seem to be doing well despite the decimation of telecom stocks in general. I expect them to acquire at least one company in the near future. It seems that one of the reasons for their success is the diversity of the products they sell while focusing on OEM customers. They develop algorithms and vocoders that can be embedded in chips and or modules, allowing partners such as Cisco, Nortel, and others to drastically reduce their time to market when developing IP telephony products. In the real world, a supplied module could help a partner to IP enable a legacy PBX with minimal development effort. Modules can also be integrated with other components onto boards, and boards -- when coupled with the appropriate hardware -- can be fashioned into a system such as a gateway. In short, AudioCodes is in a position to supply components at various levels of the food chain and as such is able to attract business that traditional board vendors such as Intel, NMS, and others dont target.

AudioCodes boards are capable of allocating resources on a port basis and their boards can be set up to be the key components of:

  • Communications servers;
  • IP enabled call centers;
  • Voicemail/UM systems;
  • Fax servers;
  • IVR/auto attendants;
  • Voice recording systems;
  • Conferencing servers; and
  • Voice portals, to name but a few examples.

There are many products in the AudioCodes product line, including the MediaPack series of devices, designed to work with hosted PBX systems and/or benefit call centers. These devices are media agnostic and range from four analog ports to four T1/E1 connections. One of the strengths of the MediaPack product line is its ability to work with a variety of softswitches and IP PBXs. The product line has an international following as well. For those of you that read TMCs sister publication, Customer Inter@ction Solutions, you know that the call center market in India is doing very well and it is no surprise that the MediaPack product line is thriving in that part of the world.

As always, AudioCodes stays on the leading edge of technology as evidenced by their recent release in conjunction with Main.net Communications, a company involved with power line broadband solutions. Main.net allows power companies to supply broadband over power lines and AudioCodes telephony enables power line customers.

PINGTEL

At the height of the telecom market many companies in the space had rounds of funding that were well oversubscribed. Pingtel was one of these companies. They had strong management and a plan to build intelligent IP phones. Pingtel has recently started to look for ways to sell even more of their IP phones (some of the nicest looking in the market) and natural way to do this is to develop an IP PBX.

The target market for their IP-based PBX as you would expect is the enterprise and government markets and I am told that the government is expressing much interest in Pingtel systems because their phones have a good deal of processing power. In fact, they are powered by the same StrongArm processor found in the majority of PocketPC devices on the market. The government wants to apply this processing power to encrypting voice traffic among other things.

What youll find interesting about Pingtels approach to the IP PBX is that except for a Linux server, and a gateway to the PSTN, Pingtels IP PBX is a software-based solution. There are a handful of approved gateway vendors to choose from.

When you compete with Nortel, Cisco, Avaya, and other major players and youre late to the game, you have to do things better. By supporting standards such as SIP, Linux, Java, Voice XML, HTTP, DNS, and others Pingtel is able to preach that they are truly open and their ability to sell an IP PBX devoid of hardware really opens up the market by not locking customers into proprietary hardware with built in obsolescence.

As the phones are Java-based, there are a good deal of developers writing applications that run on these phones. There is an application that merges with a facial recognition system using biometrics. If the system recognizes a criminal, it can flash the picture of the criminal on the screens of all the phones on the system.

The most exciting thing about what Pingtel has done is that you can run your PBX on a Linux box instead of a proprietary piece of hardware. Within a few years, every vendor will likely follow suit. For most applications an IP PBX on a Linux box is all you need. Linux boxes are so cheap these days that you can have redundant systems at a fraction of the cost of other alternatives. The current cost for a Pingtel system is $500$600 per port with the phone included. Software-based IP PBXs will drastically reduce the cost of telephony and increase its reliability. If youre interested in learning more about Linux telephony, as a reseller or customer, make sure to contact Pingtel directly.

INDIAN SUMMER II

Websters second definition of Indian Summer is a happy or flourishing period occurring toward the end of something. While we definitely arent at the end of the IP telephony market -- more like the beginning -- I like to think that we are at the end of the downturn, and that were beginning to see a slow and steady recovery in IP telephony. Whatever happens, we will continue to report on the industry objectively in order to help you make intelligent buying decisions.

Enterprise WiFi
In the August issue of this publication, I suggested that service providers look to new services as a way to boost their revenue. I suggested WiFi Telephony with built-in QoS would be a great way to enhance revenue. Recently Verizon announced that they would begin to install WiFi in corporations. A recent article in the Boston Globe mentioned that a typical office connecting 20 computers with two access points would cost $4,200, including planning, installation, configuring network security to thwart hackers, and ongoing maintenance. Additional computers could be connected for $110 to $120 each. There was no mention of WiFi telephony but I expect this as a natural extension. Id be interested in hearing more about this rollout. Please e-mail me at rtehrani@tmcnet.com if you know anything about this new Verizon product offering.

[ Return To The January 2003 Table Of Contents ]



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