January 02, 2001, 10:17 AM — ATLANTA - 3Com last week announced new IP telephony gear that could speed the delivery of IP-based Centrex services for small and midsize businesses.
3Com's session initiation protocol (SIP) phones provide standard phone functions, such as speed dialing, hold and call transfer, and come with an infrared port that can receive data from a Palm. Using PDA phone control software already installed in the phones, users can beam phone numbers to SIP phones from a Palm contact list that the phone can automatically dial. A PDA can also send information over the phone, such as an electronic business card, which could be read on an SIP phone's LCD screen by a recipient.
The phones can be used with 3Com's NBX LAN telephony product and connect to a network via a 10Base-T connection, or in a service provider system using the SIP Signaling Server. SIP is an application-layer signaling protocol for creating, modifying and terminating IP sessions with one or more participants. These sessions may include Internet multimedia conferences or Internet telephone calls. 3Com's plan is to create a fully featured IP telephony system.
"Until now, most corporate phone systems have been in the dark ages in terms of [IP features]," says Anand Varadachari, senior business development manager for 3Com's Internet communication division. "You had basic dialing, transfer and hold functions, and that's about it."
The company also rolled out the SIP signaling server, a Sun Solaris-based box running custom call control software from 3Com, as well as management software and a database for end-user billing data. The box sits in a service providers' central office and connects to customers' networks via the Internet. Customers gain access to the public phone network through the server, which is hooked into the phone network by a gateway device. The server also comes with application programming interfaces, which can be used by service providers to develop custom unified messaging applications.
"The benefit of this [system] is that end users don't have to buy a whole new piece of phone equipment when their businesses get to a certain size," says Joe Gagan, senior analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston.
The 3Com SIP phone costs $395. SIP signaling server pricing was unavailable. The two products were demonstrated at NetWorld+Interop 2000.