3Com on Oct. 1 will trail competitors into the small and midsize business IP telephony market with a series of new VOIP offerings intended to provide a wider range of options for price-sensitive customers.
Following the spring rollout of new IP telephony systems aimed at SMBs by Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Microsoft partners, 3Com is setting the stage for a planned series of new IPT offerings that emphasize ease of use, survivability and voice as another application on the IP network.
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With its rollout of three new IP PBX systems—two of which share a code base with 3Coms existing enterprise-class IP PBX—3Com is bifurcating the market.
The new VCX Connect 100 and VCX Connect 200 provide a similar set of functions, including SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-based call control, conferencing, unified messaging and presence, auto attendant, mobility, and a Web-based administrative interface.
The VCX Connect 100 is targeted at businesses with 30 to 100 users and the VCX Connect 200 is intended for up to 250 users. Both are designed for SMBs looking for simplified management, integrated communications and resilience.
Read more here about an IBM and 3Com collaboration on VOIP.
For even smaller businesses, 3Com chose to offer Digiums Asterisk appliance for organizations with between five and 20 users.
"This is a brand-new space for us. We see a natural progression toward open source," said Bipin Mistry, vice president and general manager of 3Coms voice business, in Marlborough, Mass. 3Com will offer services around the Digium appliance such as on-site and remote maintenance and installation services.
The 3Com Asterisk appliance, which works with all 3Com IP handsets, is intended for a single site. It includes pre-configured software that provides voice mail, auto attendant, voice menus, integrated voice response and conferencing. The appliance includes four ports for central office lines, four ports for analog devices and four LAN ports for IP phones.
It will complement 3Coms existing IP PBX for small businesses, NBX, giving small businesses the choice of an open-standards-based system, Mistry said. 3Com will continue to add new features to the NBX platform as well as add support for industry-standard SIP.
"Effectively, weve expanded our overall portfolio from an IP telephony and communications standpoint and were driving survivability and ease of use across all the platforms we have," Mistry said.
It is unclear whether customers will be confused by 3coms choice to offer products based on different technologies.
"The Asterisk deal could be confusing, but Id rather see them be confusing than not being considered at all. It gives them alternate routes to the market. They just dont get considered," said industry analyst Zeus Kerravala, with the Yankee Group.
3Com also expanded its portfolio of IP phones through a co-branding agreement with Polycom. The two companies agreed to start with six different Polycom IP phones that are all SIP-enabled, although that number could change over time, Mistry said. All of the co-branded phones will work with all of 3Coms IP PBXes, including the new Asterisk appliance.
The VCX Connect 100 starts at $7,000 and the VCX Connect 200 starts at $7,500. Both are available now. The 3Com Asterisk appliance lists for $1,595. It and the co-branded Polycom phones are due by November.
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