CounterPath’s NomadicPBX Unites Desktop and Mobile Phones

Vancouver, BC-based CounterPath has taken another step forward in its push to merge mobile and desktop telephony environments into a seamless whole.

The company says it already has landed all the Tier 1 operators with its previous offerings, including the Enterprise Mobility Gateway (EMG), which serves as the meeting point between corporate back-office servers and the Bria Mobile client software.

Where EMG takes desktop tools into the mobile realm, the company’s latest offering aims to bring key mobile capabilities back to the desktop. The NomadicPBX is being billed as a turnkey platform for enabling converged mobile and broadband Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) voice, messaging, and presence services. CounterPath is marketing the product toward wireless carriers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

The company already has a foothold in the market, according to VP of Product Management Todd Carothers. CounterPath has sold $30 million in softphones since 2003 and claims 10 million users for its free softphone product, X-Lite.

The NomadixPBX value proposition rests on the need to forge a seamless experience between the home office and the mobile user. “Right now people still have a number of different identifies that aren’t reachable from different places. The entire industry is trying to get to ‘anytime-anywhere’ communications, and that’s been the tag line, but no one has really done it,” Carothers said.

“End users now are forced to buy multiple solutions from multiple providers, whereas this gives them one phone number across the desk top and the mobile phone,” he said. As envisioned, the NomadixPBX user will work through the service provider to download needed software and acquire the necessary SIM cards. “They plug in their desktop phones and now they have a single phone number for each employee, incorporating all the business features, all coming from a single provider.”

That single phone number will be transparent to outsiders, with outgoing calls all appearing to originate in the home office. It’ll be seamless in functionality, too. A user might carry a mobile call into the office, fire up a laptop and transfer that call invisibly from mobile to desk, and back again.

Having this kind of converged solution is more than just a convenience: It’s also going to be a significant financial win for the small- to mid-size businesses that are CounterPath’s intended audience, Carothers said.

In the first place, the expanded capabilities will require no capital outlay, no new equipment.

Moreover, convergence in this case could lead to lower rates as carriers find themselves able to be more competitive in their pricing. “They are combining everything into one, and for them the cost of doing that is trivial, so they are going to be able to undercut everyone,” Carothers said.

Carothers sees a number of verticals as being ripe for this kind of functionality: Shipping and transportation, with its geographic reach; medical, for its mobility; and real estate for its special business needs. Route agents’ mobile calls through the home office, Carothers said, and those agents won’t be taking the roster of prospects with them when they leave.

While convenience and cost may go a long way in convincing end users to explore the virtues of this type of convergence, the even bigger winners here may end up being the wireless carriers and MVNOs.

In the current landscape, as Carothers paints it, businesses look to their landlines for business solutions, while mobility has been mostly a matter of bargaining for discount minutes. By converging the two, NomadixPBX could give carriers a little meat to put on those cellular bones.

NomadixPBX can take such mobile services as call transfer, call swap, and call waiting, and bring them indoors. “That means the wireless side can come in and say: ‘We are bringing a bundled solution that provides a full range of capabilities into your business,’ ” Carothers said. “For the first time they have something to sell that doesn’t commoditize voice, that doesn’t just focus on price.”

Functionality is always nice, but at the end of the day it’s usually the bottom line that tells story most clearly. In its initial analysis, CounterPath says its new product can save users 10 to 20 percent in operational expenses. That’s as good a starting place as any.

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