Polycom Makes the Buzz Go Away

Conference phone upgrades by the company will eliminate interference caused by smart phones.

Smart-phone makers unwittingly gave Polycom the best pitch it could have to get voice conferencing customers to upgrade their conference phones: that annoying buzz caused by the radio frequency interference the smart phones create.

Polycom on Feb. 5 will introduce upgrades for its installed base of more than 2 million analog and IP conference phones that shield the phones from interference from Treos, iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smart phones that users bring to conference rooms.

"A lot of companies tell people, -Don't bring your BlackBerry to meetings,' or -Don't put them on the conference table.' Some people think it's just related to e-mails on the smart phones, but it's really the way the mobile device keeps in touch with the cell tower," said Brian Phillips, senior product marketing manager at Polycom. "Even if users aren't actively in a call or sending or receiving messages, it'll happen, because [the cell tower] talks back to the cell phone to make sure it's still connected."

Polycom re-engineered many of the components used across its line of conferencing phones to shield them from the buzz-causing interference, which is more pronounced with smart phones that use a GSM network. Polycom upgraded microphones, speakers and cabling to better shield its products from the interference.

"As we see the proliferation of smart-phone devices transmitting with more power and frequency, it's really brought this issue to light, especially with heavy users," Phillips said.

In a survey of 1,000 Polycom customers, about 90 percent said that the buzz occurs frequently on conference calls, according to a Polycom spokesperson.

The upgraded phones are available now, and Polycom did not change the price of its phone models. Polycom is offering a $50 to $100 discount for customers who wish to trade in their existing phones.