LG Ericsson USA Launches Hybrid Key Phone System for SMBs

A recently formed joint venture between LG Ericsson and Accton Technology Corp. has born first fruit.

The company known as LG Ericsson USA—which was created with the idea of combining deep expertise in telephony and similar expertise in data networking—has entered the North American market with its first branded product, a hybrid key telephone system solution that allows users to maintain their attachment to their traditional phone systems while making the transition to IP-based telephony.

“There are still a lot of smaller dealers of voice selling digital phone systems,” said Tony Stramandinoli, vice president of marketing at LG-Ericsson USA. “If somebody starts with the hybrid system they can then add capabilities, for example with remote IP phones, Wi-Fi IP phone, SIP IP phones. Then they can move from there to full IP without having to replace all the phones they have.”

The magic happens inside the ipLDK-60 Hybrid Key Telephone System. Aimed at small business users with up to 50 employees, the product supports both PSTN and IP connections, as well as SIP trunks for up to 48 extensions. The system includes a full-featured attendant, voicemail, Least Cost Routing (LCR), Direct Inward Dialing (DID), and internal/external paging.

While other vendors have brought hybrid solutions to market, Stramandinoli said the ipLDK-60 may be able to gain an edge thanks to the pedigree of its makers. The product stems from the union of partners with different areas of expertise—different enough to give the effort a unique stance among contenders, Stramandinoli said.

“There are a lot of traditional voice manufacturers who have started with hybrids, but they only deal in voice,” Stramandinoli said. By contrast, LG Ericsson USA comes with a background not just of voice but also of data and networking expertise.

The Korean company LG Ericsson owns 60 percent of the joint venture. That enterprise has deep expertise in the details of voice delivery. Accton Technology Corp., the 40-percent shareholder in the effort, is one of the largest networking ODMs (original design manufacturers) in Taiwan.

That expertise on the data side is especially significant, in Stramandinoli’s view. While many end users have got their minds around the fundamentals of voice, “the data side is still a hazy new technology for a lot of these folks,” he said. The more guidance the new company can give in this arena, the easier its entrance into the marketplace may be.

This same dichotomy of voice versus data is having a profound impact on LG Ericsson USA’s approach to distribution, as it rolls out its new product.

When dealers need voice solutions, they go to voice distributors. For data needs: data distributors. With a product that straddles the line, LG Ericsson USA will need support from both camps. For its product launches in the United States and Canada it therefore has formed relationships with national data distributors, as well as with regional voice distributors. It’s a necessary strategy to ensure that all bases are covered.

In a further bid to court the interest of dealers, the company has engineered a system that Stramandinoli said needs only a minimum of configuration. Not only does this simplify things at the user level, it also means dealers can get into the game without the need for any additional certification.

That’s a significant point, since the target dealer for the product is going to be a very small company, “and if you approach them with a very complicated solution, they may shy away from it, depending on the size of the dealer. The really small guys just want something easy,” Stramandinoli said.

All those details may help pave the way, attracting the participation of dealers who will be pivotal in bringing the hybrid product to market. In the big picture, though, it is the system’s intrinsic features that are likely to be most appealing, its hybrid nature paired with the possibility of dealers’ being able to deliver to their customers not just telephony capabilities but also the back end networking and data solutions that round out the picture.

“Now the dealer can sell in not just a phone system, but all the pieces he needs to make that phone system work,” Stramandinoli said. “We are arming our dealers with all the pieces they need to make sure that everything works seamlessly together.”

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