SIP Phone Vendor snom Ships its Own IP PBX

It isn’t every day a phone vendor brings an IP PBX to market—especially a well-established provider of end-user SIP devices like German developer and manufacturer snom technology AG.

Yet that’s just snom did earlier this month, with the release of snom ONE. A fully provisioned phone system, the new product aims to serve the needs of small and mid-size businesses. More to the point, snom ONE is geared to help its maker ship more phones.

“It’s really all about the intelligent endpoints getting sold,” said Director of Business Development Mike Storella.

snom’s PBX has all the functionality of standards-based IP PBX platforms, including up-to-date features like simultaneous ringing of desktop and cell phone, multiple extension aliases and centralized address book. It supports hot-desking, voicemail and a Web interface for provisioning and management.

Naturally, it also integrates seamlessly with snom’s phones, something the company is hoping will prove a big advantage in the marketplace. While snom devices already mesh easily with most IP PBXs, SMBs are often wary of buying from multiple vendors. When they see a phone and a PBX coming from the same vendor, they may perceive this as a tempting proposition.

“Our distributors clearly will take this opportunity to package and bundle phones with the PBXs,” Storella said.

While distributors talk up the system among SMBs, snom’s in-house team will be trolling for bigger fish, especially the CLECs and cable providers looking to provide VoIP without taking on a lot of extra work for themselves. “They know our phones have been available for years, and some of them use our phones, but now with this IP PBX, I can really ratchet up my marketing to those people,” Storella said.

Some of these CLECs and cable companies have, in fact, expressed interest in seeing a snom PBX offering, but that’s by no means a guarantee of success. “They are not strong to commit right away; they want to see the end product. So we really need to go back and ring them up again,” Storella said.

For those already using snom phones, snom ONE should offer, if not added functionality, then at least greater ease with which to access certain functions.

Take for instance the touch-screen snom 870 phone. It’s possible for it to display visual voicemail, but it takes some degree of programming to make this happen with someone else’s PBX. The snom PBX is inherently able to handle it. The same holds true for the snom Hold button: It works on other PBXs, but it isn’t always easy to enable. With the snom PBX, there’s an organic fit.

“Everything is easier if you are controlling both ends,” Storella said.

snom ONE comes in three versions: Free, Yellow, and Blue. The downloadable free version supports up to 10 extensions. Yellow lists at $895 and carries 20 extensions, while Blue at $1,495 supports an unlimited number of extensions and multi-tenant capabilities for up to five companies.

All the versions include full functionality: The only difference is in their capacity.

While construction of an IP-PBX might not have come easily to a phone vendor, snom sidestepped that potential peril by accessing a ready-made product. Over the past three months, Storella said, the company has been merging its technology with existing PBX capabilities from Andover, Mass.-based PBXnSIP.

That teaming sped development time and allowed snom to conduct thorough testing in the Italian market before the formal product launch.

It was a thoughtful move, since the Italian business community—much like the American SMB market—still is feeling its way into VoIP. Much like smaller U.S. companies, Italian firms proved ready to embrace an offering that could be had as a packaged whole, rather than one that had to be acquired piecemeal.

“The one thing we learned in many cases is that as VoIP is going more mainstream, you are finding more and more customers that want one total solution up front,” Storella said. Especially among businesses that have a small number of employees spread out among multiple locations, “they don’t want to get the PBX from one company and the phones from another.”

Thus the snom PBX remains only a means to an end. Storella estimated the PBX line will make up only about 20 percent of the company’s business in two years. The rest will still be phones, and the PBX’s main job will be to keep those phones moving out the door.

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