The Cellular Connection

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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 Communication

By 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 Scope

Although 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.


Continuing Innovation and Growth

Innovation in wireless communications continues to proliferate, and why not? According to the Gartner Group, in Stamford, Conn., wireless technology was among the top five budget investment priorities in 1999 among Global 2000 companies, and the analyst group expects interest in wireless to move into the top three budget investment priorities this year. The Gartner Group views wireless as a means to augment existing corporate networks, not as a substitute for wired communications. Industry watchers expect the use of wireless, and cellular telephone usage in particular, to continue to grow. We’re seeing more vendor competition in the cellular market, more price pressures, [and] new features, says Jerry Kaufman, president of Alexander Resources, a market-research firm in Dallas, Texas. // Lynn Haber writes on business and information technology from Norwell, Mass.

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