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Avaya Calls on Nokia Again

Avaya Inc. is readying an update to its mobile product line that will allow Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s new E-series phones to connect to corporate PBXs and seamlessly transfer between wired and cellular networks in the office. An update to follow shortly will allow users to hop between cellular and WiFi networks, the company says. Avaya confirmed that it is gearing up to release the latest fruits of its partnership with Nokia once new enterprise-focused E-series phones become available. The European versions of these handsets will be called the 6061 and 6062, while the first North American model will be called the E62.

Nokia said recently that it doesn't expect to begin shipping the handsets in large volumes until the third quarter of this year. (See Nokia: No Enterprise Love.)

Avaya spokeswoman Deb Kline says the update will allow the Nokia cellphones to operate more like deskphones, allowing users to forward voicemails and launch conference calls with a few simple keystrokes rather than complex commands. This builds on work that the company has already done with Nokia's Series 60 handsets.

Analyst Inder Singh at the Prudential Equity Group LLC is familar with the upgrade and says he expects that the company will show it off at a product demonstration day tomorrow. "I've seen the demo," Singh says. "It's like you are inside the PBX environment on your cellphone."

In addition, industry sources at the Interop show in Vegas last week told Unstrung that Avaya was working on a "PBX-based" fixed/mobile convergence system for launch in the next month or so.

Kline wasn't clear on when this update would be available but did say that work on dualmode offerings was "progressing nicely," thanks in part to the company's cooperation with European wireless carriers.

Avaya is by no means the only major PBX vendor working on this kind of system. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is also working with Nokia on a very similar project. (See Cisco, Nokia Team on FMC.) "Cisco's going to do the exact same thing," Singh notes.

Avaya has been working with Nokia on these types of applications for a couple of years already. The pair already permits users access to enterprise mobile applications over the firm's S60 series handsets. Prudential's Singh says, however, that the new product will require an enterprise software upgrade as well as new code on the Nokia handset.

The Avaya user community is certainly eager for more mobile updates, as these postings on online user groups show. Analysts, however, say that these upgrades will likely become checkbox features for PBX vendors.

Elizabeth Herrell, a vice president in Forrester Research Inc. 's telecom and networks research group, says that the Avaya and Cisco upgrades are part of a logical evolution of the PBX market. "It is all part of the blending of wired and wireless... Eventually we'll have a single address that can reach us anyhere," she says. The market, however, is not quite there yet, Herrell notes: "It is coming out now in pieces... Many vendors have components -- no one vendor has a whole solution."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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