Mitel unlikely to be a service provider here, says CEO

Thanks to its most recent acquisition, Ottawa’s Mitel Networks is a competitive local carrier in the United States.

The IP communications manufacturer resells local, long distance, MPLS networking and other services in 31 states, and hopes to expand into more states, Don Smith, the company’s CEO said in an interview.

The offerings come through its Net Solutions division, which it picked up six months ago when Mitel bought competitor Inter-Tel Inc.

However, if he has his way, Mitel won’t become a CLEC on this side of the border. Smith is discussing what Intel-Tel services to bring north with his resellers to make sure they’re on-side with the company’s strategy. But he doubts becoming a service provider would work in this country.

“I’m not sure Net Solutions fits in Canada because I think there are enough service providers here,” he said. However, there may be room for other services which network buyers may be interested in, he said, including managed services.

For example, Inter-Tel’s Data Net business sells LAN, WAN, SAN and NAS solutions as well as consults on their installation.

Smith said he wants to add as many managed services as possible.

Mitel won Inter-Tel last August after a struggle with the company’s founder and former chairman that at times became bitter.

In February, Smith came to Toronto to meet with industry analysts and IT reporters to give a progress report on how the integration is going.

Absorbing Inter-Tel, which was slightly bigger than Mitel, has doubled the company’s revenues to $850 million.

All but Inter-Tel’s 7000 IP PBX, which had just been released, have been added to the Mitel line, Smith said.

With the acquisition, he said Mitel can now offer network and IT buyers a “soup to nuts” range of IP products from Inter-Tel’s 3000 PXB for up to 52 users to the Mitel 3300 ICP, which, when clustered, can serve up to 65,000 users, along with desktop, cordless and softphones.

Through its recently-released Mitel Applications Suite, it offers a unified messaging platform that includes Web conferencing and teleworking capabilities. Later this year it will add contact centre capability. The suite also fully integrates with Microsoft Office Communications Server.

He also gave a small peek at new products that will be released this year. Among them will be the long-promised unified communications system it has been working on with Sun Microsystems based on that company’s Sun Ray thin client PCs.

The idea is to create a package integrating Mitel’s contact centre software on Sun servers with the PCs, which would be plugged into Mitel base stations. Users equipped Java-based ID cards could log into one PC, then, move to another room for a meeting without losing phone connectivity. One possible scenario, Smith said, could see a user logging out with the Java card, the system transferring phone calls to his mobile device as he moves, then switching to a phone in another room with a card swipe.

Already shown in an early version, a closer to production system will be demonstrated at this month’s VoiceCon conference, Smith said. After that it will go into trial before being available for sale in the second half of the year. He gave no pricing details.

Initially, existing Sun Ray customers – largely in government and financial sectors wanting secure PCs – will be targeted for the bundle, he said. However, he also sees opportunities in health care institutions.

Also coming is a Mitel soft client linking its unified communications applications to BlackBerrys and certain Nokia handsets that will take advantage of each device’s interface.

Smith is upbeat about the possibilities of unified communications, saying research shows that for the first time half small and medium business surveyed believe that it will bring them business value.

SMB organizations see the potential for U.C. in communications-enabled applications, contact centres, mobility and unified messaging, he said.

“There’s no doubt about buyer appetite” for unified communications, he maintained. “There is no doubt about the application areas they want to get it in. There is doubt about how best to implement it and how complex it is and how easy we can make it for them.”



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