Adtran's entrance into the unified communications space adds another player to a rapidly changing market.
In the past few months, the UC field has seen consolidations, partnerships and new entrants as vendors look to position themselves in a space that is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years.
Cisco Systems is looking to expand its presence in the market with its proposed $3.4 billion acquisition of video conferencing equipment maker Tandberg, a deal that is expected to close in the first half of 2010.
In the meantime, Cisco and British Telecom on Dec. 9 announced a partnership to create a cloud-based service to offer businesses hosted UC services.
For its part, BT is partnering with Polycom to combine Polycom's UC solutions, including voice, video and telepresence, with BT's services. In addition, Logitech International got into the video communications space with its $405 million acquisition of LifeSize, whose products were targeted primarily at the midmarket space.
It's the SMB space that Adtran is hoping to gain traction in as it enters the UC space. Adtran, which makes converged communications products, is launching a line of NetVanta UC solutions that company officials said will offer greater customization and simplicity than competing products.
Adtran made the announcement Dec. 14.
While the NetVanta suite-which offers everything from voice mail to unified messaging to a fax server-can also serve enterprises, it's the capabilities for smaller companies that will help Adtran differentiate itself from its larger competitors, according to Chris Thompson, senior product manager for Adtran's voice products.
"The SMB space, for the most part, is still a little underserved in the UC market," Thompson said in an interview.
The products are designed to support from as few as five to as many as 2,000 users per server.
Thompson and David Schenkel, senior technology analyst with Adtran, said that despite their size, SMBs need UC capabilities for the same reason that larger businesses do-to reduce expenses while increasing efficiency.
Industry analysts also see a growing demand for such products, from both SMBs and larger enterprises. Gartner is expecting the UCC (unified communications and collaboration) market to hit $7.4 billion in 2009, a 22 percent increase over last year.