Meru Promotes Voice Services Over Wi-Fi

Meru Networks has introduced a multitiered channel strategy designed to make a case for deploying voice services over Wi-Fi.

Meru Networks Inc. last week introduced a multitiered channel strategy designed to make a case for deploying voice services over Wi-Fi.

The Meru Channel Partner Program trains resellers and systems integrators in deploying converged WLANs (wireless LANs) that can handle voice and data, said officials of the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.

The program includes three tiers—Authorized Partner, VOIP Mobility Partner and Wireless Partner, the latter two of which are designed to train channel partners to meet the needs of enterprise customers, officials said.

Until recently, Meru has been focusing on Japan, which generally warms to the idea of new wireless technologies before the United States does.

In March, the company announced reseller agreements with three significant Japanese companies with VOIP (voice over IP) offerings—Hitachi High-Technologies Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. and Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd. All three resell Merus switches as part of their enterprise VOIP offerings internationally. Now the company wants to turn its wireless VOIP focus stateside.

"Were definitely seeing customers in the U.S. start to roll out voice over wireless, or at least plan for it," said Ben Gibson, vice president of corporate marketing at Meru.

A representative at one channel partner said that pitching Meru to customers can be a challenge because "nobody really recognizes the name Meru" but that they are often sold on the scalability of the hardware.

"It piques interest because it grows along with them," said Katie Brown, manager of channel relations at Microtech Information Systems Inc., in Rochester, N.Y. "Its designed to fit into future plans for wireless voice over IP."

Meru also announced it has completed successful interoperability tests between its WLAN system and various IP telephony offerings from Avaya Inc. At the same time, Meru announced a partnership with Voda One, a division of Westcon Group Inc. in Omaha, Neb., a distributor of Avayas that specializes in networking equipment.

Avaya competes directly with Cisco Systems Inc. in IP telephony, and Ciscos recent acquisition of Airespace Inc. gave Cisco the tools to deploy centrally managed WLANs—including networks that focus on voice. Teaming up with Meru should help Avaya compete against Cisco, Gibson said.

Analysts tend to see Meru as a top technical performer, but they have yet to be sold on the promise of wireless VOIP. In Gartner Inc.s "Magic Quadrant for Wireless LAN Infrastructure" report last month, Meru scored high as a visionary but lower on the ability to execute that vision.

"Meru Networks is the most technically sophisticated offering, but may be beyond the needs of many organizations that focus on limited capacity needs," according to the report.


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