TalkSwitch Introduces Hybrid DECT Business Phone

Ottawa-based phone systems vendor TalkSwitch has just released its TS-850i cordless DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) phone, which it says will bring the convenience of mobility to its small-business IP-PBX customers.

This isn’t about merely going wireless, said CEO and Founder Jan Scheeren. Rather, the new phones are part of a hybridized system intended to wed business owners’ mobility aspirations with the promise of full PBX functionality.

“What we are really doing is to say: Here is almost a new product category,” he said.

Scheeren characterizes the integrated system largely in contrast to what existing solutions typically cannot do.

“In the past what you got with a cordless system was a base station with multiple phones. Panasonic has been selling that solution for a long time,” he said.

Most such systems lack the range and muscle of a full IP-PBX product. “With these typical cordless phone systems, they don’t have an auto-attendant, they don’t have levels of sophistication of voicemail so that each phone will have its own voicemail. They don’t have remote extensions to integrate cell phones into the system or the ability to integrate regular analog phones. They also don’t have phone grouping—putting a number of phones together in a single department—or call queuing for incoming calls.”

His point is straightforward. While small businesses have long had a cordless option, the pairing of an IP-based DECT cordless device with full IP-PBX capabilities has been elusive. That’s what TalkSwitch says it is bringing to the table.

Likewise, the analog nature of existing systems has long been problematic, he said. Base stations are not designed to accommodate very many phones, they aren’t equipped with the needed analog connections, and when multiple phones can be connected, call quality is often sketchy.

By going hybrid, TalkSwitch aims to overcome all these diverse hurdles. Its connection travels from a DECT handset to a base that in turn plugs into the Ethernet.

“DECT gets you better voice quality and better range. Handsets can be less expensive and they last five times longer in terms of battery talk time. You get a more economical phone with superior voice quality, and the range is also much better,” as compared to Wi-Fi solutions, he said.

The TS-850i phones feature auto-detection and configuration of the handsets, and the system can accommodate three handsets per base. Since the new phone is a hybrid of IP and analog, able to connect via IP extensions or traditional phone lines, this opens up options for telecommuters who connect to home or office lines from the same handset.

TalkSwitch solutions start at $1,143 suggested retail for a PBX system, one base station and two cordless handsets. The system can accommodate a maximum 32 phone lines and 64 extensions per location.

Having first brought his systems to market in 1996, Scheeren said the time is right to roll out a more extensive solution, one that seamlessly meshes cordless operation with full PBX capabilities. In the first place, SMBs are yearning to cut their moorings. Warehouses, retail stores, manufacturing facilities, and others have been looking for options that would extend worker mobility throughout their facilities.

So far they have typically had a hard time acquiring such systems, especially if they hoped to roll in more sophisticated telephony features. “Small business has an extremely low penetration for cordless solutions, because cordless has been much more geared to the home environment,” he said.

At the same time, the numbers suggest a potential pool of SMBs in need of PBX capabilities, Scheeren said.

He estimates that of the 6.5 million SMBs with 20 or less employees, only 18 percent have PBX or other sophisticated telephony capabilities in place. That leaves a target market of some 5 million potential businesses, with an estimated 500,000 more small businesses coming into existence each year.

“I would never make a case that even ‘most’ of them would want this. There are a lot of people who are happy with a one- or two-line phone to run their businesses. But many also don’t know that there is a solution like this one,” Scheeren said. If he could tap just 10 percent of potential customers, “now we’re talking about a lot of units.”

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