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October 30, 2009

Positron Telecom's VoIP Solutions Well-Suited to Retail Distribution Model

By Patrick Barnard, Senior Web Editor, TMCnet

 

(This is Part 3 in a three-part series based on an interview with Positron Telecom president Richard McGravie. To read Part 1, click here; Part 2, click here).

Industry research shows that about 75 percent of all Asterisk-based telephony products are bought online through resellers. Typically the Asterisk PCI (News - Alert) cards from the leading vendors must be installed by a certified technician and require significant time for installation and set up.

Most Asterisk-based telephony cards require that separate drivers be installed for each function the card is to carry out – for example, if you want your card to support fax, then the board has to be appropriately configured and you have to install the appropriate driver (ZAP, CAPI or DAHDI). What’s more, most of the leading vendors’ boards don’t come with Asterisk, Linux or telephony pre-installed -- you have to have the vendor or technician do that for you. Even Ethernet is usually a separate option.

But imagine if there was a more comprehensive, “out-of-the-box” solution.

Enter Positron Telecom, a newcomer with strong roots in the telephony board market.
 
By offering telephony boards that work more like turn-key solutions – rather than major, all-involving communications technology projects – Positron Telecom makes it easier for customers to quickly and affordably deploy VoIP across their organizations. The company’s solutions are fully-customizable – companies can use Positron’s PBX (News - Alert) PCI adapters to deploy VoIP and conferencing organization wide – or even a full featured contact center system with intelligent call routing.

During a recent interview, Positron Telecom President Richard McGravie explained that because the company offers turn-key solutions, as opposed to traditional telephony cards that are difficult to install and need significant configuration, a wider range of distributors and resellers can sell its products.

“By creating solutions and going a little further up the food chain than a normal board vendor would go,” McGravie said, “we’ve created a product that can be distributed through retail outlets. So someone looking for a conference bridge or a call center solution can buy just that functionality.”

McGravie said distributors like this “because it’s easier to get the message out – they can simply say ‘here’s what this can do’ – and they can market these products using simple, canned messages.”

McGravie said main difference between Positron Telecom and its competitors “is that we install as an Ethernet adapter -- all you need to do is send IP traffic to us and we work. No need for extra drivers -- and no operating system limitations.” Just install the card into any PC and the OS – regardless of whether it is Linux or Windows – and it will recognize the card immediately and a simple GUI guides the user through the installation process.
 
“Because of the state of the market we’ve had a little bit of reverse osmosis when it comes top the sales channel,” McGravie explained. “We’ve been able to fairly successfully secure a full pan-European distribution base – and we’ve secured Latin America – so now we’re working on better coverage of the North American market. Distributors have been easy – resellers have been harder.”
 
“In general, we have a market strategy of distribution – we support the distributors and OEMs,” he explained. “From a product perspective, I don’t want to be in the position of selling direct to resellers or end users. I want to feed those through distribution. So, for example, in North America we’ve already signed a distribution agreement with Telephony Depot. Additionally, there’s DCS in Latin America – and in Europe its VoIPon, Maple Leaf, etc. So, as we’ve pulled in resellers, it’s been through the distributors, not direct. We will have a direct touch with resellers, but strictly sell through distribution.”

McGravie said Positron recently signed a deal with distributor WildEx, serving Spain, Portugal and Italy, and also recently signed a new distributor in Scandinavia.

Earlier this month Positron announced that Bitmovers Srl is now an official member of the Positron Partner program and will be reselling Positron’s PBX PCI Adapter products in Italy. The company is also partnering with VoIPon Solutions (News - Alert), a business to business distributor of the high quality voice over IP hardware, to expand distribution of its solutions throughout Europe.

“Normally you have a whole bunch of resellers and you keep selling through them, and distribution doesn’t want touch you,” McGravie said. “But right now, distribution is very happy to touch us – because we have something new and interesting that they can talk about. They seem to be quite happy to take on our products. And they understand the value, in terms of what’s wrong with Digium and Sangoma, and what we’ve fixed.”
 
Certainly having Ethernet already on the card makes it many times easier to install. Being OS independent is another big advantage.

“We have a lot less issues with our installation,” McGravie said. “If you’ve ever looked at a Digium or Sangoma ordering book, trying to figure out what you’re supposed to order, when it comes to echo cancellers and FXS ports, we have a very clear bill of materials, where the echo canceller is always on board and we also support FXS on our boards and whatever PSTN on top of it. So it’s much easier for resellers to buy what we have.”
 
“Also, technically our echo canceller is superior,” McGravie added. “For some reason Ottawa has a huge issue with echo – so we’ve already replaced a number of switch box boxes because they couldn’t handle the echo cancellation. And the reason for that is, we use what is called an ASIC (application specific integrated circuit). There are three ways to handle echo – software, DSP, or an ASIC. When vendors do the DSP, they tend to ‘cheap out’ on it, and it’s not implemented very well -- it’s not fast enough and it can’t handle the echo long tail. We use an ASIC -- which is bloody expensive -- and it fits in-line. It doesn’t require any code – you just turn it on and it takes care of the echo. And because it is a dedicated chip, it is a lot faster than a DSP. So, if you had to go side-by-side, I’d say we have the best echo canceller in the market segment we’re in.”

Positron’s solutions allow customers to quickly and easily expand their Cisco Call Manager and other PBX solutions by cost effectively adding phone extensions, advanced features such as voicemail conversion to e-mail, video integration and enabling mobile phones to connect long distance calls through the PBX at the rate of an inbound local call.
 
Another significant advantage Positron’s boards have over competing solutions is that each incorporates a master/slave application that allows two identical boards to synchronize and monitor each other for the purpose of backup and automatic failover in the event of a failure. Even if a host machine goes down, the system can keep operating, as it operates independently of the OS and is powered through the PCI bus. (And, as mentioned earlier, because all boards in the box are Ethernet based, this allows boards with different telephony interfaces to co-exist within the same host PC.)

Best of all, these boards are extremely simple to install and configure. They virtually eliminate compile, version conflict, tool chain and missing library issues – plus they do not require customers to purchase and install a separate echo canceller, or FXS or FXO clip-on cards, as they are a single-board solution.
 
McGravie said from a market penetration perspective, Positron Telecom’ all-in-one solutions are able to do things that the competing products simply can’t do or don’t do well.

This, McGravie said, opens up new possibilities for technology partnerships. For example, Positron recently signed a partnership agreement with Dell, “and we’re talking to one of their small business groups right now about a bundling,” he said.

“We can bundle with them because … we can be put into any operating system,” he explained. “You can’t do that with any Asterisk system, because it doesn’t play well outside of Linux. Then take us in the context of an Ethernet adapter, and we can play into the virtualization (i.e. VMware) realm as well.”

In addition the company’s solutions can be integrated with Microsoft (News - Alert) Office Communicator – and hence can be used to facilitate the much-coveted unified communications feature sets and capabilities, such as “presence.”

“None of the other vendors can close to what we’re able to do,” McGravie said, adding the company has already established a formal partnership with UC solutions provider Esna Technologies (News - Alert) (Positron Telecom is not an official Microsoft Partner as of yet -- integrating to Microsoft OCS is an active development project).

Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

 

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