Zultys Phone Unwires Conference Calling

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Zultys Technologies today announced the release of a telephony device it believes will bring vastly greater flexibility—and improved quality—to audio conferencing. The Frisbee-form BTC or Bluetooth Conference Phone is designed to operate in conjunction with any Bluetooth-equipped phone, including Zultys’s line of IP phones.

According to Zultys vice president of marketing, Patrick Ferriter, development of the BTC “was driven by customer feedback—desire for an alternative to the market leader.” Ferriter pointed out to VoIPplanet.com that the products of that market leader, (“You probably have one in your conference room”) “are focused on the high quality speaker and the microphones; the phone itself is pretty short on features—very feature-limited,” he said.

Zultys believes that the BTC will compete with the ubiquitous Polycom units on both quality and features. On the quality front, the Zultys unit sports four top-notch microphones to Polycom’s three. “The speaker is higher quality than the market leader’s top-of-the-line device,” Ferriter observed. “It can achieve much louder output with only 2 percent total harmonic distortion.”

But more mics and better speakers are not the essence of the BTC, according to Ferriter. “What we’ve done is instead of trying to put all the intelligence into the conference room phone, we’ve divorced the intelligence from it and made it an accessory for a number of different devices,” he said.

The unique innovation—and the one that brings added features and flexibility into the picture—is the Bluetooth capability. Since the BTC depends for its connection to the telephone network through another ‘accessory’ phone, it also benefits from the features associated with that phone—an easily viewed corporate address book, for example.

A case in point is Zultys’s ZIP 4×5 executive-level, Bluetooth-equipped IP desk phone, which the company views as a natural operating partner to the BTC. The 4×5, in addition to its full complement of PBX-like features, has “five call appearances,” according to Ferriter. This means the phone can bridge up to four remote participants into the call while the BTC handles the assembled personnel in the conference room—in contrast to other conference phones, which are single-line devices.

Then again, operating in conjunction with a Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone, the BTC becomes a flexible traveling conference tool.

“If you take one of these things and toss it in your suitcase, you can conference wherever you happen to be, as long as you’ve got a mobile signal,” Michael Disabato, vice president and service director at the Burton Group told VoIPplanet.com. “People who believe you can do that with the built-in speaker phone on a mobile phone are in for a rude shock,” Disabato observed.

The BTC is clearly designed with portability in mind. Under each of the four microphones is a slot for a Lithium ion battery, which charge when the unit is connected to AC power, and which will power the phone wirelessly for two weeks of standby and up to ten hours of talk time. According Patrick Ferriter, “It’s about three and a half pounds with all the batteries in place and about two pounds without the batteries. You can also use throw-away batteries, which you might want to do on the road.”

“For people who are running Skype and doing this over a softphone on a laptop this is also a cool thing,” pointed out Burton Group’s Mike Disabato. “I have a PowerBook and I’m also Bluetooth happy. I could probably do it with wires—but why?” Indeed, in addition to operating with any Bluetooth telephony device, the BTC will also accept a straight analog audio feed (via cable connection) from any phone or other accessory.

Warming to his subject, Disabato continued, “There’s real potential with this thing. If you have a conference room scheduled, say, and you get booted out by another meeting, all you really have to do is pick it up and go to an office next door—within radio range—and you don’t have to move the phone or anything else. This isn’t something you’re going to need to do every day, but it gives you some added flexibility, that’s the big deal with this—flexibility.”

At the time VoIPplanet was briefed, Zultys hadn’t finalized pricing for the BTC—a task somewhat complicated by the many worldwide markets it serves through its channel partners—but the ball-park goal, according to Patrick Ferriter, is to price the BTC and a ZIP 4×5 desk phone together at about the same price point as the market leader’s top-of-the-line conference phone system.

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