With an excellent client experience on certain platforms and next-generation communications features overriding a few management shortcomings, DiVitas Network’s mobile unified communication solution provides a fine alternative for businesses looking to fully integrate their smartphones with the corporate telephony server.
With its second-generation platform, DiVitas Networks successfully expands beyond FMC (fixed mobile convergence) staple features like one-number portability across cellular and Wi-Fi networks and complete integration of mobile phones into the corporate PBX. With the latest iteration of its Mobile Unified Communications solution, DiVitas now features unified communications features like secured instant messaging, presence, and visual voicemail.
Pricing for the DiVitas solution is based on the number of users licensed within the system, with licenses sold in packages of 10, 25, 100 or 500. With a list price of between $400 and $420 per user, the DiVitas solution would cost around $40,000 to $42,000 for 100 users, or $200,000 to $210,000 for 500 users. The license is all-inclusive for DiVitas features, as one-number portability, roaming between networks, presence and Visual Voicemail are all included in the base price.
However, system implementers should be aware that the DiVitas solution is sold as a software appliance for customers to install on their own equipment. Therefore, companies will need to factor in the need for server hardware into the upfront cost assessment. On its Web site, DiVitas lists four different hardware solutions prequalified for installation (including three Dell machines and one from Hewlett-Packard).
DiVitas representatives claim a single server can handle up to 500 mobile users, depending on configuration.
On the Web site, DiVitas lists IP PBX systems from 11 different vendors among those supported (including Cisco Systems, Mitel Networks, Nortel Networks and Avaya), but because DiVitas proxies all call management and media traffic from the DiVitas client to the rest of the network via a SIP trunk, I’d expect DiVitas to work with just about any PBX that support SIP trunks. I tested the DiVitas solution in conjunction with a Trixbox/Asterisk deployment.
I was underwhelmed by the DiVitas’ setup process, as I did not find the management interface intuitive, and it lacked any integrated help resources to guide me. This is an unfortunate shortcoming, because managing the DiVitas Server is really like managing a distinct second PBX-I had to make sure dial plans matched up on Trixbox and the DiVitas Server, and to configure extensions on the PBX and DiVitas Server, as well as both inbound and outbound rules. Adding to the confusion, the DiVitas Server also offered many services that may duplicate existing features on the existing telephony platform-the DiVitas Server runs its own voicemail service to deliver Visual Voicemail, and can be used to host conferences as well.
I also found myself wanting some kind of directory integration, allowing me to pull user data via LDAP or Active Directory from an existing store where user contact data and group affiliations might already be defined. The administration page would let me import this data from a CSV file for large deployments, however.
Nokia On Point; AT&T Troublesome
On the device end, DiVitas primarily supports Nokia E-Series and N-series smartphones, as the company advertises support for just pair of Windows Mobile devices from HTC- the TyTN II (also known as the AT&T Tilt) and the HTC S730. In tests, I found that Nokia devices-specifically the Nokia E51 and the E71-worked out of the box with the DiVitas solution, but the AT&T Tilt required a special firmware upgrade I received from DiVitas (a test build that required me to unlock the phone, at that) in order to get going.
The on-device user experience with the DiVitas Client is where the full solution really shines, at least on the Nokia side of things. From the DiVitas Client, I could easily place calls using either the business extension or the phone’s mobile carrier number (the client presents the option on every call). I could also easily access either the phone’s local contact store or conduct lookups from the corporate directory, and I could view separate lists of missed, incoming and outgoing calls.
The Nokia phones typically made the transition from Wi-Fi to cellular and back seamlessly, although I did occasionally experience a handoff delay where I heard a few seconds of stock music before the call could continue. Audio quality on Wi-Fi calls was typically excellent-noticeably better than the typical cellular quality-as DiVitas utilizes G.711 codecs for all calls.
I could quickly parse through voicemails using DiVitas’ Visual Voicemail feature. On the device (with a data connection to the DiVitas server), the Client displays an icon for every message in my mailbox. Clicking on a bar downloaded the audio file to the device, allowing me to play and pause the message, or return the call. Unfortunately, the Client would not let me fast forward or rewind within a message, which to me is the best feature of such a visual voicemail implementation.
I found the unified communications features also worked quite well. The integrated text messaging services were easy to use, allowing users to pass short messages back and forth IM-style. Meanwhile, presence updates are pushed quickly throughout the network, allowing users to define which modes of communication are currently accepted (voice, text, both or neither), and convey a quick message about their current disposition (out of office, taking a nap, etc).
On the other hand, the DiVitas experience on my AT&T Tilt was terrible. The phone had bad audio quality and a massive amount of trouble staying connected to the Wi-Fi network despite good coverage. Because this particular device has been through some wars, I am willing to chalk this experience up to a faulty device. However, it should be noted that DiVitas has scaled back the number of supported Windows Mobile devices over the last year as different models have not been able to provide the experience the company wants to deliver, which makes me question how interested the company is in continuing to support the Windows Mobile platform.
Given the overall quality of the client components and the somewhat complicated, under-developed management capabilities of the system, the DiVitas experience is one that translates exceptionally well to a hosted model-letting someone else take care of system management. Indeed, DiVitas has partnered with VOIP carrier Sawtel to deliver FMC features to the carrier’s customers as part of hosted suite of unified communications services.
eWEEK Labs Senior Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at [email protected]