Mitel brings teleworking home with IP

If you think “teleworking” is not the hot topic that it was two or three years ago, don’t mention it to the folks at Mitel Networks Corp.

The Ottawa equipment vendor in February unveiled the 6010 Teleworker solution, an IP phone system that Mitel says makes it easy to enable employees working off site.

“Although the fashion right now might be to not talk too much about teleworking, if you look at the growth rate…in North America, Europe and Asia, it’s good,” said Jim Davies, Mitel’s vice-president of SME solutions.

“We think [the 6010] opens it up to a whole range of people who wouldn’t use it before, because of cost and simplicity.”

The 6010 consists of a Mitel IP phone at the user’s location and an IP gateway back at headquarters. To program the phone, a telecom manager need only plug the device into the corporate LAN and enter the server’s IP address.

The user at her end plugs the phone into a DSL or cable modem. The phone automatically finds the IP gateway and serves up features as if the device were within the corporation’s walls. That means colleagues dial the employee’s four- or five-digit extension and clients call the company as usual to reach her.

“Simplicity, reliability and cost are the priorities,” Davies said.

Regarding scalability, Mitel’s IP gateways are stackable, “so there’s no limit to how far you can go.” As well, the system “is fully managed remotely. Anywhere the administrator can get Web access, he can configure phones, disable phones…. We even have a [Research In Motion Ltd.] BlackBerry interface for configuration.”

The company also kept security in mind with the 6010.

“We ended up going with 128-bit CAST encryption,” Davies said. “It would take you a year to hear a second of someone’s call.”

As for sound quality, Mitel built dynamic jitter buffers into the 6010 to help alleviate a common problem with Web-based phone service.

Static jitter buffers are at the mercy of Internet delay, Davies said. When delay is high, big buffers have to wait for data. That wait time creates gaps in calls.

Small buffers, on the other hand, fill too quickly. The transmission plays out before all the data’s in, making for a garbled call.

Dynamic jitter buffers expand and contract depending on the state of Internet delay. Davies said this feature, coupled with special packet sequencing techniques, makes for a high-quality voice experience.

He added, the system requires at least 40Kbps both ways to work properly, so Mitel advises users to employ high-speed Internet service – 100Kbps there and back.

Jeff Snyder, a San Jose-based vice-president and chief analyst with Gartner Inc., said the 6010 makes sense for companies with distributed contact centres and seasonal telephone workers.

“Anything you can do to give that person full access to everybody in the organization and the online tools they would have were they on the local network…without making them go through a certification course is a big deal.”

Nature’s Path Foods Inc., an organic cereal producer in Delta, B.C., has purchased the 6010 for its new headquarters in Richmond, B.C. Ron Boucher, the firm’s technology manager, said the system’s simplicity put it at the top of the list.

“These phones come with two ports in the back. I’d like to see what happens when we connect the computers to the phones; that might help eliminate the need for VPNs for our remote users.”

Mitel’s 5020 IP phone is priced at US$350. The IP gateway costs US$350 for four users. Each user thereafter adds US$50 to the bottom line.