Mitel going after Cisco’s Telepresence market


Three-screen life-size video conferencing doesn’t have to break the bank, says Mitel Networks.

The Ottawa company says its software-based TeleCollaboration Solution, to be released next month, offers features similar to Cisco Systems’ Telepresence at a significantly lower price.

“We’re challenging Cisco head-on,” Steven Beamish, Mitel’s vice-president of marketing and business development said Friday.

“We feel we’ve got a very cost-effective solution for corporations that [start at] under US$60,000.”

That price is for the software only. Organizations provide the server, cameras and high-definition LCD screens, although Mitel has a turnkey solution. “We don’t want to re-do someone’s office. We don’t want to have to say you have to have a room this size, a table this size. Whatever works for you.”

The solution is designed to be run without an administrator. A session starts by initiating a voice call from a SIP phone to participants, after which the video is invoked.

Features include the ability to edit documents on screen. An integrated conference bridge operates as a mixer for remote meeting rooms, as well as for dial-in, audio-only participants. Displays can be sub-divided to live video feeds, stored video files, shared computer desktops, stored data files or streamed multimedia content

A two-screen TeleCollaboration system needs only 2.5 Megabits a second of bandwidth, while a three-screen system needs 5 Mbps, both using HD video cameras.

Also on Friday, Mitel said it suffered a net loss of $193.7 million (all figures U.S.) on revenue of $735.1 million for the fiscal year that ended April 30. However, that included a non-cash write down of $284 million from its 2007 purchase of Inter-Tel Inc., a U.S. manufacturer of IP communications solutions.

Steve Spooner, the company’s chief financial officer, emphasized that for the year revenues were up.

“We feel pretty good that in a very challenging economic environment … we posted top-line performance with 6.2 per cent [revenue] growth,” he said in an interview.

That was helped when the company laid off between 300 and 400 people starting in November as it saw the recession hitting.

“Not only are we surviving, but the company is getting stronger,” he said.

Although it had to write-off goodwill from the $730 million Inter-Tel deal, Spooner said it gained presence in the U.S. and a company that was generating $460 million a year in revenue.

“We are considerably stronger as a company” today, he insisted. “There is absolutely no doubt Mitel has weathered the economic crisis far better as a result of being a larger, stronger, more profitable company than either company was before the merger.”

While buyers continue to be cautious, he is “cautiously optimistic that when confidence returns to the market, Mitel’s going to be extremely well positioned.”

Although it isn’t a publicly-traded company, because Mitel has more than 300 U.S. shareholders it has to issue an annual financial statement.

The company, whose chairman and major shareholder is entrepreneur Terry Matthews, sells a wide range of IP-based products including Communications Director, IP phones and wireless handsets.

As part of the product announcement, Mitel also released Unified Communicator Advanced 3.0, a desktop application that links to Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes to give users a single portal to multiple communications sources such as e-mail, voice-mail, cellphones and conferencing.

New to UCA is the ability to configure up to eight Mitel or non-Mitel devices; Dynamic Status, which allows users to configure their status and presence including call

routing options and calendar integration; and Visual Voice Mail, which through integration with NuPoint Unified Messaging, provides users with the ability to see and access their voicemails. At the same time, they can see

the presence status of internal callers.


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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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