Alcatel readies partners for unified communications

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Alcatel has begun preparing its resellers to sell a unified communications offering that the French telecommunications vendor believes will drive it deeper into the mobility market.

Vaughan Webster, channel manager at Alcatel Australia, said the vendor had begun "up-skilling" its channel partners for the release of a unified communications-focused software suite it has developed.

"It's basically around mobilising the workforce and trying to improve the efficiency of people in your workforce and better use investments in data infrastructure," Webster said. "We're expecting a very big investment in IP telephony."

Alcatel had seen IP telephony-related sales in the first quarter of 2004 increase to 19 percent of its business, he said.

The emergence of unified communications dovetails with a current replacement or combination of obsolete Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) PABX-based systems with IP telephony. IP telephony connects the telephone system with business LANs or WANs and the internet -- converging voice with data.

 "Unified communications is software that allows real-time communication over a network. [For example] you can use your telephone or PDA to log on to the internet, and receive and send information," Webster said.

He pointed out that converging voice and data can help companies harness complex, whole-of-organisation business process applications such as CRM.

"This is really about increasing the information [a business has available through its phone networking] rather than limiting it to messaging," Webster said.

Alcatel's unified communications suite would have MyMessages, MyPhone, MyTeamwork and MyAssistant applications, and the plan was to adapt them to run on any platform, he added.

"People are concerned about the proprietary nature of some systems," Webster said.

Voice-and-data integrator BTAS has already signed up for the new offering. Gavin Jones, managing director at BTAS, said the suite was Session Initiation Protocol(SIP)-compliant "so was very open" to running on platforms other than Alcatel's own.

"We're actually talking to a number of entities -- existing users -- that haven't invested in any other type of this technology over the past three years," he said.

Jones could not say how many customers of his had been interested in unified communications. However, he added that businesses seemed to be coming out of the recent "investment slow-down" and ready to adopt IP telephony infrastructure or buy associated applications.

Further, IP telephony now played a role in 100 percent of BTAS' opportunities, he added.

"The time is now with the technology refresh," Jones said. "This is complementary."

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