3Com Corp. wants to scale its LAN telephony platform to support larger enterprises and extend voice capabilities across its portfolio of data network products.
The firm's voice plans, announced this week, center on 3Com's NBX network PBX, which is currently a stand-alone device targeted at small and midsize enterprises, typically with less than 1,000 employees. 3Com says it will extend NBX technology and applications to its workgroup and core network switches to support thousands of users in multiple locations.
NBX capabilities will be added to 3Com's SuperStack II switches in the second half of 2000 and to the company's CoreBuilder 9000 data center switches in early 2001.
On the WAN side, 3Com's PathBuilder WAN switches will support voice over xDSL in the second half of 2000. PathBuilder switches currently support voice over ATM, voice over frame relay and voice over IP for enterprises looking to replace traditional voice-only trunking with converged voice/data networks.
3Com also plans to add voice gateway capabilities to the NBX and SuperStack II products based on the H.323 and Session Initiation Protocol standards. These enhancements are slated for late 2000.
In early 2001, 3Com will add these gateway capabilities to the CoreBuilder 9000.
For converged voice/data applications, 3Com plans to release a customer relationship management, multilocation call center processing and mixed media service (voice/fax, voice/video) application in mid-2000. 3Com also plans to deliver an application developer program in the first half of 2000 to bring additional third-party applications to the 3Com voice portfolio.
In the second half of this year, 3Com plans to deliver telephony applications that let customers interact with personal digital assistants -- such as the company's Palm handheld device -- with infrared-enabled telephones. This ability will let mobile users personalize and manage telephony communications.
"I like the new strategy," says NBX user Rod White, vice president of telecommunications at the Home Shopping Network in St. Petersburg, Florida. "I believe that they have successfully delivered on the small and medium LAN. We installed one of the 3Com/NBX systems in our facility in Roanoke, Virginia. The purchase cost was 60 percent of an equivalent PBX. I also believe that they have delivered on the WAN category, since I can easily connect two NBXs at two locations over the WAN."
But some analysts were less than impressed. Tere Bracco, principal analyst at Current Analysis in Sterling, Virginia, says 3Com's timeline for scaling NBX puts the company far behind Cisco, Lucent and Nortel Networks in terms of delivering comparable capabilities.