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Business Phone System Comparison: Featuring Panasonic


Over the course of the next few weeks TheTelecomBlog.com will highlight some of the more popular business phone systems sold to the Small Medium business market. We sent a series of questions, as you will see below, to a number of the larger manufacturers of business phone systems and asked for their responses which we are publishing exactly as provided by the manufacturer. At the end of the series we will do a round-up and comparison of the major brands. Some of the brands which we will highlight include: Avaya, Cisco, ShoreTel, NEC, Mitel, Toshiba, and Panasonic.

Disclaimer: I am the President of Digitcom.ca and have an obvious bias toward the products Digitcom sells. I am NOT the person writing these posts, nor will I be the person doing the round-up. That will be done by one of TheTelecomBlog.com writers. We’re trying to make this as objective as possible.

There's an obvious market trend toward VoIP, some of the manufacturers only have a VoIP solution. We’re going to delve into the call center, and finish with the following question (which sits on my mind as well): Do you view manufacturers of smart phones, companies like Apple and RIM, as a competitive threat, not necessarily today but 3 to 5 years from now?

So stay tuned over the next 4 weeks. I am going to try and publish these posts on Tuesday and Thursday of every week until we're done. This week we're going to highlight Panasonic, a very viable SMB solution with tons of features and great market presence.

We have now highlighted Panasonic, Avaya, Mitel, and ShoreTel.

Who are you and what position do you have with Panasonic?

Stefan Berens, Marketing Manager for Communication and Document Products

Panasonic offers IP based as well as hybrid communication Platform for SMB businesses. Our “sweet spot” is between 5 and 250 users but systems can also go beyond that up to a maximum of 1000 employees per site. All system are fully SIP compliant both from a SIP trunking and SIP telephone perspective. System are fully networkable and Unified Communications enabled. UC is based on the Communication Assistant productivity suite which enables unified messaging for all platforms. For up to 128 users no server is required (except TDA30, smallest platform) in order to implement UC. Panasonic basic UC platform (Communication Assistant Basic Express) is completely free of charge and already allows presence, click-to-dial and outlook integration. Panasonic is globally the no 1 provider for Communication Systems in the below 100 extension market (MZA).

What is your SMB phone system called?

KX-TDA30: more geared towards very small businesses, digital based system, expandable, IP and SIP connectivity (trunking and extensions) possible.

KX-NCP500: Network Communication Platform (128 IP or SIP extensions built-in, enabled through optional DSP and activation keys). Supprts SIP trunking and IP Networking. Hybrid solution with TDM capabilites for extensions and analog/PRI trunking.

KX-NCP1000: Network Communication Platform (128 IP or SIP extensions built-in, enabled through optional DSP and activation keys). Supprts SIP trunking and IP Networking. Hybrid solution with TDM capabilites for extensions and analog/PRI trunking. Higher capacity on the TDM site compared to NCP500

KX-TDE100/200: Fully hybrid Commuication Platforms based on IP processor. 128 IP extensions out of the box enabled through DSP and activation keys. Higher IP capacity can be achieved through additional expansion cards. Fully IP and SIP enabled. Old TDA100/200 customers can easily upgrade through exchanging only Main processor card. Phones, station cards, wireless phones, trunk cards all stay the same. TDE expands the TDA to IP capabilites. Great for existing customer to offer them a cost-effective solution in order to embrace IP Technology. Difference in TDE100/200 is the TDM capabilites, TDE200 allows more option cards to be installed.

KX-TDE600: Solution for medium to large enterprise with multiple cabinet option

Do you have more than one model in the SMB space? KX-TDA30, KX-NCP500/1000 and KX-TDE100/200

Does your phone system support both digital and IP phones? Yes, very important for the SMB market. Often businesses don't have the infrastructure in place today to support IP, so TDM is the most cost-effective way. And if you look at the percentage of SMB that still install TDM technology in North America, it is still very high.

Does your call center offering support skills based routing? Do you have a call center offering and what is the capacity of the call center including agents and queues? Yes all systems support basic call center features such was UCD, ACD, priority hunting as well as basic call center reporting which can be expanded through Communication Assistant productivity suite. Support for up to 128 incoming call distribution groups and 128 agents per group. For enhanced call center applications a 3rd product (Poltys CC suite of call center applications) is employed which fully integrates into the Panasonic platform.

-Built-in Call Centre “Group” features: -128 Incoming Call Distribution (ICD) Groups -Distribution and Routing Tables -Caller Queuing with integrated messages -VIP Groups Group Overflow -Group Forwarding

What level of integration does your product support with respect to integration with Outlook? For example, can you, from within the calendar, access your mailbox settings and define the greeting to use while at a certain appointment? What other features does the product have with respect to calendar integration? Outlook Integration is done through Communication Assistant Suite.

- Make and receive calls, open contact and easily choose phone number to dial from CA outlook tool bar. - Receive calls in outlook through outlook toolbar - Screen-pop in outlook for incoming calls based on caller-id - Visual voicemail through Communication Assistant - Calendar integration on roadmap - Mailbox settings can automatically change when changing status in CA, all call forwarding can be set individually based on presence status

Where do you see the SMB market headed over the course of the next five years?

SMB market is definitely heading more and more towards IP technology and mobility allthough most of the businesses still go TDM today. Mobile devices such as blackberry and iphone get more and more popular in the SMB market which means integration into the PBX is and will be key. SMB requirements are growing especially when it comes to UC and UM. SMBs are asking for the same functionalities as larger enterprises do. Mobile workers want to have full access and want to be able to work remotely without any limititations compared to sitting at their office desk. It will be very important to offer a fully integrated and cost-effective solution that increases mobility, prodcutivity and independance.

Do you view manufacturers of smart phones, companies like Apple and RIM, as a competitive threat, not necessarily today but 3 to 5 years from now?

Mobile devices are gaining more and more popularity and every manufacturer has to make sure they have an application that works with mobile devices. Since cellphone contracts are getting cheaper and cheaper (cheaper than landlines) this could be a potential threat in the future to those manufacturers that can't bring a complete solution to the table. Today Panasonic does a lot of work with SIP trunking and a big part of our shipments go out with some form of IP on it (e.g. SIP trunking). Mobile devices can be integrated easily, calls to the office are automatically forwarded to a cell phone or calls through the cell phone can be routed through the PBX for a one-number solution. No need to give out the cell phone number any more.

System redundancy can be a complicated topic, but can you describe, from a high level perspective, how your system supports redundancy?

Secondary IP PBX. If the first PBX quits and the phones go dead they will automatically go to the secondary PBX registered in the phone. If the first PBX comes back online, the phones will automatically switch back to the primary PBX.

Written by: Jeff Wiener. www.digitcom.ca.


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