SMB - Nortel pitches VoIP, other gear to SMBs

Nortel says it means business -- small business -- with the launch this week of VoIP, Ethernet, WAN and wireless LAN gear targeting companies with five to 250 users.

The VOIP piece involves changes to Nortel's popular Business Communications Manager (BCM), an SMB-focused VoIP switch. Besides having migrated to Linux from the Windows server platform, BCM now has security, management and application features. Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches, WLAN access points and a secure router for SMBs are also part of the package.

BCM 4.0's support for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking makes it possible to connect the box into a SIP-based VoIP service from carriers. The box also includes an SMB contact center package, with call-routing queuing features and Nortel's CallPilot unified messaging software.

BCM 4.0 also has a new Element Manager application, which lets administrators schedule system backups, apply operating system and VoIP software patches, and make upgrades through a browser-based GUI. Another management upgrade is the addition of Proactive Voice Quality Monitoring -- a technology developed by Nortel and VoIP management company NetIQ -- which measures the quality of voice calls on an IP telephony network and provides tools to troubleshoot and configure network settings to improve quality over LAN or WAN links, Nortel says.

For wired data networking gear, Nortel is launching the Business Secure Router (BSR) 222 and the Business Ethernet Switch (BES) product lines; for WLANs, Nortel has the Business Access Point (BAP) 120. All network products are designed for SMBs with limited IT and network expertise.

"This is the sort of thing that Nortel has been needing to do for a while now," says IDC Research Director Ken Presti. The move from Nortel also comes six months after Cisco began its own SMB product and services push under its Linksys One brand. "It's hard to say if this is actually a response to Linksys One," Presti says, "or just a result of two companies getting the same pulse-reading on the market."

The BSR 222 router bundles WAN routing, firewall, VPN (as many as 10 IPSec tunnels) and VOIP gateway services into a package that can be mounted on a desktop. The box, based on Nortel's Contivity router/VPN products for enterprises, is intended for offices with a maximum of 50 workers. It has four Ethernet ports and two WAN-facing ports for connecting to a broadband modem.

The BES line includes the 24-port BES120-24T-PWR and 48-port BES120-48T-PWR switches; each box has a 10/100Mbps port and two 10/100/1000 uplink ports; half the ports on each box support PoE. The switches support 802.1p packet prioritization and Differentiated Services for applying QoS to VoIP traffic. BES120 switches without PoE are available. Non-PoE versions of the switches -- BES110-24T and BES110-48T -- also are part of the launch.

Nortel's BAP 120 is a stand-alone 802.11a/b/g access point that can support an office with as many as 100 users with WLAN access, Nortel says. The BAP 120's Web-based management interface provides simplified setup and management features for companies that may not have WLAN experts in the office, Nortel says.

The company expects all the new Nortel gear to be available in mid-August. Pricing for the BES products ranges from US$535 to US$2,300. The BSR 222 costs US$578, and the BAP 120 costs US$550. The BCM 4.0 costs from US$4,900 to US$8,600, depending on configuration.

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