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Tag Archives: Nortel Networks Corporation
Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. is sitting pretty these days, thanks to Carl Icahn, its largest, and most outspoken, shareholder. Icahn is urging the company to explore options of capitalizing on its massive patent portfolio, following a $4.5 billion deal for Nortel Networks Corp.’s patents, notes AllThingsD. Motorola Mobility is among a group of companies (including Apple and Research in Motion) that recently picked up thousands of Nortel’s patents. Icahn is urging the company to “maximize monetization,” note The Wall Street Journal’s Spencer E. Ante and Lauren Pollock, particularly on patents relating to 4G technologies. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, last week, Icahn said that Motorola’s patent holdings are “substantially larger” than Nortel’s. Read more at AllThingsD.
A consortium of companies, including Apple and Microsoft has received legal approval for its purchase of a “war chest” of 6,000 patents from Nortel, in Chapter 11 since 2009. Seems the one thing the two tech giants could agree on was their desire to outbid Google, which started the bidding war in the first place, by offering $900 million in cash for the patents. Experts say that having a solid list of patents to one’s name increasingly important for survival in the lawsuit-laden world of mobile communications.
For now, your office network is efficiently handling the day-to-day needs of your business. Congratulations on a job well done. But how prepared is it — and are you — to roll with the changes of the latest technologies as they grow more mainstream? As data, voice, and video functions converge, your network is likely to need a serious upgrade. “A single-service or dedicated network cannot meet diverse and growing consumer demands for ‘many services to many screens,’” warns a recent Cisco Systems white paper. These “screens” include phones, PCs, mobile TV, and hand-helds. The services? Instant messaging, voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP), streaming video, and more. Meanwhile, the next generation of the Internet Protocol (IP), known as IP version 6, or IPv6 for short, will require most every business to make some network adjustments. With the U.S. government set to switch over to IPv6 from today’s IPv4 by 2008, businesses would do well to make preparations. Making sure your network is ready to face the future makes a lot of sense. But what’s the best way to go about it? The experts say these are your choices: Option 1: Find a good consultant If your inclination is to build out your existing network, don’t go it alone, advises Abner Germanow, director of enterprise networking at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. “Small businesses need solutions to grow their business without adding too much overhead,” he says. “Buying a new small LAN switch may be inexpensive, but add 15 of them and they become hard to manage.” Instead, he says, find a consultant to work with you and figure out just how “infocentric” your business is, and what your needs are. Do you need wikis? Blogs? Instant messaging? How much of your business is done over the phone or face to face? A consultant can help you best, Germanow says. “Think of them as your IT department, just outsourced.” Prices for these services will vary widely, depending on your office’s needs. A real plus for small businesses today is that most major network product and service providers now have small business lines. “There’s been a very big push on the part of Cisco, Nortel and others to develop products and services for this market,” Germanow says. Option 2: Invest in hosted solutions Another good option for small businesses is hosted solutions. Hosted IP telephony alone “would give you a lot of power for not much cost,” notes John Thompson, principal with Hinsdale, Ill.-based Thompson, Ross & Associates, a telecom/IT consulting firm. While costs vary, for about $25-$75/month, small businesses can pay for VoIP through a host, such as Aptela, CallTower, Qwest and many others, who will handle all the switching, security, and messaging services. “Through these services, voice mail can be integrated with e-mail, and your office phone integrated with your cell phone,” Thompson says. “It can also grow with your office, and the same phone numbers can be used at outlying offices.” In general, Thompson says, hosted solutions of various kinds — storage, e-mail, Web conferencing, and others — are good solutions for small businesses lacking their own IT staffs. “One of the problems we see with small offices, those with under 50 phone lines, is that they have bought bad technology, or it wasn’t implemented correctly, and they get themselves into a box,” Thompson says. “Hosted solutions are scalable, and can bring small businesses along until they are big enough to hire their own IT staff.” In fact, Thompson is following his own advice. As his six-person office prepares to move to a new space, he says, “We’re looking at hosted services for ourselves.”
It may just be time for small and mid-sized businesses to get over their fears when it comes to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Early concerns kept many businesses from dropping traditional landline telephone service and signing up for Internet telephony in droves. A survey in January of 350 businesses with fewer than 500 employees found that only half trust the security offered today by Internet telephony providers, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association, a technology industry association. Small business concerns with VoIP involve quality of calls, reliability of service, and access to 911-emergency services from VoIP telephones. The issue concerning 911 calling exists because VoIP calls provide no geographic location information to emergency responders since they use an Internet connection, making the caller’s whereabouts hard to pinpoint in the event of a crime, fire, or other emergency. But the marketplace has responded with a wide range of business-grade VoIP and hosted-IP telephony products. Today’s offerings promise better sound quality with more functionality, flexibility, and cost savings. Why is it the right time for your business to consider VoIP? Here are a few reasons: 1. Mobility and flexibility “VoIP has great mobility features,” notes Ward Ross, principal with Hinsdale, Ill-based telecommunications consultant Thompson, Ross and Associates. Because VoIP phone service uses Internet lines, “You can take your phone anywhere in the world, have the same phone number, and be able to access your calls.” Small businesses with multiple offices “can appear as one office and have system transparency,” he notes. In addition to this mobility, VoIP has the flexibility to integrate with other Internet-based services in ways a traditional telephone cannot. These include telephony during video/Web conferencing presentations, calendaring, or data file exchange. 2. Saves money Beyond its superior flexibility, VoIP saves businesses money. Depending on the service you choose, you may be able to avoid paying for both broadband and telephone services — or significantly scale back your telephone bills. Some providers allow you to buy broadband service and then calls over that broadband line are free. VoIP long-distance or international calls carry minimal charges, ranging from none to low. In addition, many VoIP providers, unlike the local phone company, offer three-way calling, call forwarding, auto redial, and caller ID without any additional charges. Services run the gamut from free computer-based calling — such as Skype — to services that better simulate the telephone experience, such as Vonage, which offers small business service for as low as $39.99 per month. While IP telephony systems can involve a major investment in hardware and IT staffing, there are also new hosted-IP telephony options available for small businesses. These include Aptela, costing $19.50 per user, MailStreet Voice at $39.95 per month, or the Asterisk business edition (using Asterisk open-source IP telephony), which is sold by Digium at $995. 3. Quality problems addressed While open-source or lower-priced VoIP services still may fall prey to poor sound quality, such as “jitters,” echoes, or out-of-order voice transmission, an entire range of business-quality services has emerged. Providers such as Avaya and Cisco use Ethernet devices called IP-PBX systems to improve sound and data-transmission quality of VoIP service. These can also safeguard against the effects of power outages, which can knock out VoIP service but not necessarily traditional phone service. 4. Security issues are being tackled Initial fears about the security of VoIP are waning, as more product lines offer ways to secure the lines. Companies like Avaya, Cisco, and Nortel all offer products with heightened security. John Gray of Nortel’s enterprise strategy marketing group, says that Nortel has taken a “layered approach” to security in its products, offering VoIP solutions that include firewalls, intrusion detection, and virtual LANs to protect multimedia VoIP uses. In addition to selling its solutions to VoIP carriers, Nortel offers its own line of small business options, notes Gray, including a new IP-PBX product with IBM. But Ross believes the security issue just might be overrated. “Is your present telephone system encrypted? I don’t think so,” he says. Eavesdropping and wire-tapping of traditional telephones is actually much easier than to do than with VoIP, he says. “I don’t think this is as big a deal as people make it out to be,” he says. 5. Emergency calling options With regard to 911 services, Ross says that most VoIP providers have worked through the problem of failing to offer emergency responders location information about VoIP calls by registering the location of its users when they subscribe. The biggest problem remaining, he says, is the use of Softphones, a specific phone designed to carry VoIP calls that remains difficult to detect. “This is something they’ll need to deal with,” he says. Nonetheless, most small and mid-size businesses need to consider these developments in the marketplace in quelling their fears of VoIP so that they can finally take the plunge.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — It is 8:30 a.m. The phone in my hotel room is ringing. Not the one connecting to room service or the bell desk, but the other one. The one I brought from the U.S.; the one that follows me wherever I go, ringing anywhere in the world to my old faithful ten-digit California number. Yes, my normal office phone is now sitting on my desk in my hotel room, ringing for me to answer an incoming U.S. domestic call. Voice over Internet Protocol service (VoIP) simply and effectively allows me to bring my phone service with me everywhere I go at no extra charge. VoIP is a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line. VoIP services allow you to call anyone who has a telephone number — including local, long distance, mobile, and international numbers — either over your computer, using a special VoIP phone, or using a traditional phone connected to a VoIP adapter. The newest generation of VoIP phones can even connect directly to any wireless access point (WiFi) router you may have access to, eliminating the need for external adapters and allowing for use through public wireless access points. While things may be poised to change, the telephone is still the most relevant tool in business today, and our dependency on voice communications is clear. During the last couple of years VoIP has moved from being a complex, unreliable, low quality service to a mature, competitive, simple to manage and high quality offering. VoIP service affords a number of advantages over traditional telephony providers that make it an overall better choice for small businesses and particularly for the millions of people that travel or work away from their office for a substantial portion of their time: Your phone number travels with you; Anywhere you can connect to the Internet you can have your phone for incoming and outgoing calls; If you obtain a U.S. phone number and travel abroad you can bring the phone or IP adapter with you and make/receive calls at U.S. domestic rates; Overall rates are quite lower that traditional telephony services; And high-end services such as voice mail to e-mail and multi-party conferencing are often bundled in at no extra cost. The competition is heating up and a roster of VoIP service providers is blooming. Some of the ones with small-business friendly offerings are Lingo, Vonage, Vonics, Skype and Packet 8. While each service provides different options and plans, the basic features are all the same, and all offer the lower cost and higher flexibility advantages of VoIP. If your company’s telephony needs are more complex than what can be provided by single-line services and require multiple lines, extensions and attendant features, you should consider hosting your own company VoIP telephony server. Either via a custom-built solution, or a pre-configured appliance, your small business can host its multi-line, telephony server for a very limited budget. Features like multiple extensions, call transfers, conferencing, auto-attendant (IVR), voice mail to e-mail, operator panel, music-on-hold, call forwarding and name directory are all included in preconfigured systems that sell between $1,000 and $3,000. IP phones that cost from $30 to $150 each. Quality, affordable VoIP servers are made by various companies, including Fonality and Zultys. At the higher end, top products are available from Cisco and Avaya. In-house, server-based solutions take as input regular phone lines and distribute the service to extensions via Internet protocol (IP) and data wires instead of phone wires. This allows for incredible flexibility of internal communications, allowing for extraordinary things such as having your phone attendant seamlessly work at home, or speaking with your manufacturing office in Vietnam at no cost at all and by just dialing its extension number. These solutions also allow for PCs, such as your salesperson’s laptop, to act as virtual handsets by using software that mimics the behavior of a regular phone. A number of “soft phones” are available on the market from vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, and Nortel, or you can download a very popular and effective free one at SJ Labs. The benefits of VoIP are incredible for small business. Switching to VoIP, in most cases, provides a quick return on investment. Old fashion telephony is on its way out and business voice communications are quickly shifting towards the VoIP paradigm worldwide. Empower your small business to take advantage of this first mature wave of benefits and write “Switch to VoIP” on top of your to-do list. Andrea Peiro is president and CEO of the Small Business Technology Institute, a non-profit organization created to foster the adoption of information technologies among small businesses.
When Lighthearted Entertainment, a reality television production company, moved into new offices in Burbank, Calif., everything was in good working order but the telephone system. “My telephone system was driving us nuts,” says Howard Schultz, founder of the company which has helped produce such shows as Extreme Makeover (ABC), Love Shack (NBC) and Truth or Dare (NBC). The phone system had been installed by a previous tenant. “It didn’t suit our needs,” Schultz recalls. But replacing that system took longer than he expected because he found out what many small and medium-sized business owners have come to realize. Even though a phone system is one of the most crucial tools in business that can help you reach clients, customers and partners, upgrading to a new business telephone system can be a daunting task. Manufacturers from Panasonic to NEC to Nortel target entrepreneurs with phone system packages that offer multiple outside lines, expandable capacity for additional extensions, and applications such as voicemail, automated attendants with voice prompts and automatic call distribution. Prices can range from $600 to $1,900 to $20,000 and up. With such an assortment of phone systems on the market, business owners need help cutting through the clutter so that they can figure out the best phone system for their business: #1. Get a head count of employees that need outside lines. Start by considering the number of employees that need to use the system. Then add up the number of extensions needed for fax machines, modems, credit card terminals, etc. If it’s a small office with a staff of fewer than 10 employees, consider off-the-shelf phones systems for considerable savings. But if your business has a staff of more than 40, it’s most likely that a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system is called for. No longer is PBX synonymous for those huge telecom closets you see at large firms. They now come in the small business size and can fit on top of a desk. #2. Forecast company needs down the road. When considering a system, examine where your company will be a few years from now. Will you increase staff? Will you open branch offices? Is an acquisition or merger likely? Experts suggest doubling the wiring if your company is likely to expand in the not-too-distant future. #3. Consider VoIP. For phone service, check into Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems. VoIP technology allows businesses to place and receive calls using the Web, offering potential cost savings. Matt Godden, president of Seattle, Wash.-based Xoasis Networks, a provider of small-business VoIP phone systems, says, “If you’re a company with branch offices, you can transfer all calls without hangup and pickup and have one operator manage all four offices” with VoIP. There were more than 4.5 million VoIP users in the U.S. last year, and that number will double this year, according to International Data Corp. #4. Buy second hand or rent. Try leasing or buying used phone equipment. Companies change phones for many reasons — not just that their phones are outdated — and your company might be able to benefit from some bargains in the market. Some firms specialize in selling refurbished equipment. #5. Buy at the close of the quarter. For firms that aren’t keen on leasing, keep certain things in mind when buying a new phone system. Purchase at the end of the quarter when sales reps are trying to hit quotas. You may find some bargains. #6. Pick a reputable seller. Who will take your call if the system goes down? Better to deal with a company that will be responsive and help you out of a jam. Most dealers handle not only the sale but installation. It’s important to undertake due diligence when choosing a dealer. The first question should be how many installations the dealer has finished using your phone system. #7. Compatibility is key. Remember to consider the other equipment or services you already own or contract for that you’re not going to replace. Make sure any new phone systems is compatible with headsets, conferencing tools, voicemail and call forwarding systems that you already have and use.
Caller ID technology links caller and recipient, phone and computer Electronic mail has revolutionized business communications. Middle-of-the-night solutions to problems can be dispatched immediately to colleagues around the world, and time-zone differences no longer mean Japanese partners must wait a day to learn the results of a meeting. But what about voice communication? How much valuable time is lost while an operator takes an order, writes down a mailing address verbatim, and then types it out, or while a contract negotiator — the other party unexpectedly on the line — searches for notes? What business needs is a way for its two most indispensable tools — the computer and the telephone — to work together. And they are. Already available in 46 states through local phone companies, Caller ID is the first widespread technology that seamlessly combines voice communication, E-mail, and computer functions. When someone makes a call, Caller ID transmits the caller’s telephone number in digital form; almost immediately — between the first and second rings — the number appears on a display unit on the receiving end. The service costs about $5 a month, and a simple numeric display unit costs about $40. For a few dollars more a month, phone companies also offer enhanced Caller ID, which sends both the caller’s phone number and White Pages listing. The recipient can then see and store the caller’s name, address (if it’s listed), and phone number on a $100 device that records the information whether the call is picked up or a voice-mail message is left. More flexible is the Caller ID adjunct box — an accessory on sale in March — that lists for $149. The box hooks up with a computer keyboard and receives the caller’s number and name. It can also use that information to open a database, run sound effects, or forward a call to a pager. In the next few years, Caller ID will operate in two directions. A format called ADSI (analog display screen interface) will allow callers to send a short message, including an E-mail address, along with their name and number. Recipients will be able to return calls by E-mail or voice using a “display phone,” a new phone that has a small display unit and keypad. Phone companies are the driving force behind enhanced Caller ID; they have already agreed on message standards. Philips and Northern Telecom have demonstrated display phones that will be available when ADSI service is introduced. Display phones — priced around $300 — will be sold in the same way that regular phones are now. The business advantages of ADSI and display phones are obvious. Recipients can screen calls and more easily return messages. Tedious voice information — operating hours and directory assistance, for example — is much more convenient when shown on a display than when given by voice. And ADSI users will be able to switch between voice and text instantly: instead of dictating your mailing address, you can simply send it as E-mail. When connected to a computer, ADSI will be even more powerful. When someone calls you, your computer will be able to automatically look up the name and number, and display notes from previous conversations. Caller ID software will also enable your computer to route messages to you via direct phone connection (for short, urgent messages) or E-mail (for longer, lower-cost messages). Today phone companies support Caller ID. But there are concerns about whether they will continue to champion a messaging system that could reduce their revenues. Efficient messaging will cut down telephone tag, which accounts for many business calls today; and E-mail generates less revenue for phone companies than voice calls do. But customers will be happier: their phone bills may well go down and the efficiency of their businesses improve. In addition, phone companies will likely sell more Centrex service (giving customers access to special phone features without their buying expensive equipment) because advanced messaging features work best when each person has an individual phone number. If your company has a Centrex or key phone system, ask your vendor about plans to accommodate ADSI and computer networks. Then there’s the question of Caller ID and privacy — an issue much debated generally. For the vast majority of business messages, however, Caller ID voice calls and E-mail are no different from paper letters, which always carry the name and address of both sender and recipient. Finally the long-predicted marriage of computer and telephone can take place. * * * Cary Lu (firstname.lastname@example.org) was formerly technology editor of Inc.