The Cellular Connection
The wireless office is taking on a whole new meaning. Vendors like MCK Communications Inc. are offering products that take cell phone usage to new heights. The Needham, Mass.-based networking vendor recently announced the availability of its new Mobile EXTender, a software feature on its PBXgateway II. Mobile EXTender puts a private branch exchange (PBX) dialtone and functionality in any cell phone or remote touch-tone phone.
EXTending CommunicationBy mimicking PBX functionality in a digital cell phone, Mobile EXTender gives mobile employees unlimited access their company's central voice network. As a result, they can use all the same features on their cellular telephones that they'd have access to in the office: call forwarding, conference calls, hold, call transfer, checking voice mail, etc. Mobile EXTender is an extended virtual network, says Woody Benson, president and CEO at MCK. Users of Mobile EXTender benefit by being attached to the enterprise PBX and having all PBX features at their disposal. Employees potentially never miss calls that come into the office while they aren't at their desks. The product also enables the organization to use a single voice mail system for all employees, even those who are mobile. Additionally, notes Benson, remote employee calls can be placed through the office PBX using the lower-cost long-distance calling plan, potentially saving the company telephone charges. A company must purchase the PBXGateway II to get MobileEXTender, which comes as a standard product feature. It reportedly takes a matter of seconds to program the gateway to extend usage to a cell or remote touch-tone phone.
Broad New PBX ScopeAlthough MCK isn't the first vendor to attempt extending PBX functionality to wireless telephones--AT&T currently offers a wireless office product which converges wired and wireless communicationsMCK claims the scope of the solution goes beyond what AT&T offers. For example, according to MCK, Mobile EXTender works with any vendor's cell phone anywhere in the world. The PBX Gateway II, however, currently, works only with Lucent Definity and Nortel Meridian PBX devices. According to the company, these two PBXes command the lion's share of the market. By contrast, AT&T's Wireless Office extends a company's central office telephone system to a wireless telephone, which must be an AT&T digital multi-network phone, whether inside or outside of the office, but within the AT&T Wireless Services coverage area.