Always connected

Mark Swensden, managing director for the EMEA region at Shoretel tells CommsMEA why IP offers companies a new level of convenience for telephony, and how his company is planning to invest heavily in the Middle East.

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By  CommsMEA staff writer Published  April 25, 2009

With an increasing number of companies turning to IP technology for their telecom services, Mark Swensden, managing director for the EMEA region at Shoretel tells CommsMEA why IP offers companies a new level of convenience, and how his company is planning to invest heavily in the Middle East.

Tell me about Shoretel. What does the company do exactly?

Shoretel is the number two pure IP telephony player in the US, according to Infonetics & Synergy Research. It is a publicly held company and has a background of being a strong player in the US, which has given us our launching point to attack other international parts of the world.

From an international perspective, IP telephony is an area that will be seeing the most growth and international markets are where Shoretel will be investing the most capital overall. I think that the difference in the cost of retaining a customer compared with the cost of acquiring a customer from a competitor is too high for operators to ignore.

What type of companies do you work for, and what products and services do you offer them?

We work with companies that have multiple sites including professional services companies, law firms, accounting firms, financial institutions, banks and credit unions. Also, local and state government and education are among our top verticals.

What are the benefits for customers who use Shoretel's system?

It improves communications within a company. We enable anytime communication from any device coupled with automatic presence management from within our software. This ensures users are in total control of their communications and that individual availability is always shown - allowing people trying to contact you to use the best form of communication with the best chance of reaching you.

We tie in closely to other commonly used software suites, such as Outlook. We tie in to your email so you get voice mails in your email to your calendar, so based on the timing of your calendar you can change how your calls are routed. We tie into applications like OCS and Sametime and Salesforce.com, so whatever it is you're working with we are flexible in that we tie up with them and allow the users to be more productive.

The main benefits are scalability with a very compelling TCO. Our system costs about 70% of the cost of our competitors for like-for-like functionality, and reliability and ease of use.

Do IP telephony providers such as Shoretel need a special license to operate in the UAE or other Gulf countries?

We need to have TRA approvals in each country. We are approved in the UAE and we are going through approvals in other markets. We are not a VoIP provider and therefore do not need a license. As with other telephony products we still connect to the PSTN network.

There is some confusion around IP. There are benefits to the business by deploying it on their IP network infrastructure rather than making calls over a voice over IP connection, so in certain countries we connect to the PSTN using the local area network or the WAN of that company, and there are no issues in that case.

What are your plans for the Middle East?

The Middle East in particular has been a rich region for us with our investment so far, and right now we are looking to launch substantially more in to this region. We have already signed two distributors, and a number of value added resellers. We have some highly respected customers in the GCC area, and this is just the beginning of our investment for our channel.

We see this region as being strategically critical for us and in terms of investment, customising our product. There is no other market in the world that demands the attention and respect that the GCC market does.

Who are your main customers in the Middle East, and what type of companies are you looking to work for?

We are looking at government projects, the professional services market and the hospitality market, so we have particular focus with organisations in those markets that we want to target to drive our product sales.

Who are your key distributors and partners in the region?

We are relatively new in the region. We have two distributors - Premcom Middle East and Vanguard. We chose value added distributors rather than broadliners. They are highly skilled on our products and have dedicated teams that only focus on our solutions. Our main resellers include the following - Omnix, Intelegia, and Nextirra for UAE. We will be announcing more partners as we announce approvals in countries.

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