ShoreTel and SIP Support

ShoreTel's newest phone, the ShoreTel IP 8000 Speakerphone, marks ShoreTel's first foray into selling SIP-enabled clients, but it sounds like the company has no intentions to market the product anywhere but to existing ShoreTel customers.

This week, ShoreTel formally announced its new Voice over IP speakerphone, the ShoreTel IP 8000.

Although it was not really discussed at length in the press release, the phone represents a fairly significant shift for ShoreTel, as the IP 8000 is the first SIP-compliant user device the company has shipped to date.

ShoreTel has been something of an anomaly when it comes to SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). While PBX vendors across the board have fully committed to the SIP protocol to provide signaling for the voice infrastructure and between client devices, ShoreTel has held out while continuing to promote its existing solutions that relied on the MGCP protocol to perform those duties.

When we last reviewed ShoreTel's system back in 2005, that version marked ShoreTel's initial foray into SIP signaling, as the company bolted on SIP trunking support to its voice switches.

These trunks could also be used to connect with third party telephony clients—SIP phones or soft phones—and indeed, this was the only way ShoreTel could satisfy customers who were looking into deploying Voice over WiFi clients. But the trunks seemed very much an afterthought, and the configuration was significantly different than for ShoreTel's regular phones, requiring the voice administrator to reserve a physical port on the switch that would be logically used by the SIP trunk (5 SIP trunks to a port). SIP trunks also cost an extra $50 bucks a pop.

And ShoreTel continued to sell only MGCP-enabled phones, until the IP 8000 speakerphone came out this week.

Back in April, when Paula Musich and I spoke with Steve Timmerman, ShoreTel's vice president of marketing, in advance of the newest version of its core software, Timmerman indicated to us that ShoreTel has no plans to actively market the IP 8000's SIP capabilities. This gives the impression that ShoreTel has no real desire to sell the new speakerphone to companies that do not have ShoreTel infrastructure.

Which is a real shame, since the phone sounds like a pretty nice little package.

I also got the sense from Timmerman that the latest core version of ShoreTel's software has done little to enhance SIP support and setup within a ShoreTel network. If ShoreTel is to start offering SIP-based client devices—and these devices are intended primarily for whole-hog ShoreTel-enabled customers—it makes little sense that ShoreTel has not done more to more fully embrace SIP within its architecture and to integrate it more formally into the setup and management processes.

Let's hope at the very least that the IP 8000 comes with a free SIP trunk license for its existing customers.