Avaya Touts IP Tech as Transformational

Q&A: Avaya CEO Don Peterson discusses the telephony technology maker's future, including a PBX deal with Nokia, wireless-to-cellular roaming and the importance of software.


Avaya Inc., the Basking Ridge, N.J., maker of IP telephony technology, is moving aggressively on multiple fronts to maintain its narrow market edge. Avaya is promoting mobility applications, speech recognition software, unified communications and its new Global Services offerings.

CEO Don Peterson sat down last week with Senior Editor Caron Carlson to discuss these developments as well as how VOIP and the telecommunications industry are evolving.

How does your business break down between traditional and IP-based systems, and how has the marketing of voice over IP changed over the last few years?

Our mix of IP and TDM [time-division multiplexing] passed the fifty-fifty mark in favor of IP telephony last year. Now were probably around two-thirds into IP overall, and I dont expect that to ever go the other way.

We talk about the utility of IP telephony as a transformational technology in the enterprise. We talk about it as being at the heart of the enterprise—and we mean that in the sense that it will change the way things interact.

You wont need keyboards, and you wont need screens with voice communications; youll just need some manner in which to connect.

In the early days of IP telephony, it was more of a cost-reduction argument: Put this in, and it will save you money.

Theres been a lot of talk about Avaya becoming a software-centric vendor, focused on delivering applications. What does that mean for your mix of offerings?

Ninety percent of our R&D spending goes into software. Clearly, the software is where the resident value is, and the hardware is commoditizing. As we go forward, that migration is going to continue. The software is going to move from a single system to discrete components, which could be integrated with other vendors software.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about Avayas partnership with Symbian to bring corporate PBX functionality to mobile phones.

What is the status of the W110 WLAN Access Point and the W310 WLAN Gateway, which were developed with Proxim Corp. to work with the Motorola Inc. hybrid phone, enabling roaming between the cellular network and wireless LANs?

[Wireless-to-cellular roaming] is part of a broad front of mobility activities that includes speech access, unified communications, modular messaging, IP softphones deployable on handheld PCs and laptops, and Wi-Fi handsets. The Motorola-Proxim solution involves development at all three of the companies.

Weve had some challenges getting the final phone operating right. Theyre not different from the problems of bringing forward any multimode phone—managing to transfer call control from one cell location to another.

There are test models out there in beta right now, and there are carriers assisting in the beta trials. The rub with the carriers might be that when the call shifts over to the Wi-Fi network, the clock stops running and burning minutes on the cellular network, but, on the other hand, many of the cell phone contracts are fixed rate.

Avaya and Nokia Corp. signed an agreement this year to integrate Nokias Series 60 phone with your IP software to extend the capabilities of the corporate telephone system to the cellular network. What are the advantages of this partnership, and what other phone manufacturers will follow suit?

Any phone that operates the Symbian operating system and has the capability in the processor and memory could in essence download our softphone over the air and activate a license for the extension to cellular.

Effectively, the phone becomes an extension of the PBX with a softphone screen in front of the user. Anybody whos using the Symbian operating system will have the opportunity to add this capability.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about video calling with Avayas IP softphone.

Youve been heavily promoting your new Global Services to help enterprises manage IP telephony equipment. Why should customers, after investing in your IP technology to gain the benefits of converged, flexible, simplified networking, have to pay you again to make the equipment all work?

This stuff is not simple. If we put it in and nobody ever touched it, you could argue that you could go without services. Once its on a LAN, all you need is for someone to unplug something for there to be problems, and most of us could not restore operation. It is not that our stuff fails. It is that other things happen.

If youre talking on the phone, and all of a sudden theres no voice, you think the phone system is broken. Im not sure you should single us out. Were offering maintenance at about $35 to $40 a year for the desktop phone and the telephony system.

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