Alcatel signs IPL arm as master distributor

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Telecommunications vendor Alcatel has signed Inter Pacific Communication as master distributor for its OmniPCX Office and OmniPCX Enterprise convergent PBX gear, a move that could further drive a wedge between main data space competitors.

Colin Vitnell, channel manager at value-added distributor Inter Pacific Communication (IPC), said IPC was a former system integrator that voice-and-data distributor IPL Communication bought for an undisclosed sum “a few months ago” and renamed, specifically to push the Alcatel OmniPCX range. OmniPCX combines traditional voice PBX function with potential for migration to IP telephony.

Previously, the SMB-focused OmniPCX Office hardware was distributed by VExpress, a specialist Alcatel distribution arm of system integrator VoIP, and Cisco partner LAN Systems. The corporate-grade OmniPCX Enterprise was not previously available via third-party distribution.

Vaughan Webster, national channel manager for Alcatel Australia, said the vendor had been seeking more distributors early this year. IPC had then approached Alcatel about a possible deal, causing the vendor to cut its search short.

“If they hadn't approached us, we would have looked at many more,” Webster said.

Alcatel was now reviewing its relationship with both VExpress and LAN Systems.

“That's where IPC really brings a lot of benefits and positive focus on value-added distribution. They have really strong national technical resources of their own and they work really closely with their resellers,” he said.

Webster said Alcatel would keep VExpress but he could not say whether LAN Systems may be dropped from the vendor's books following the IPC appointment.

“We have got a commercial relationship at the moment, but we are under a non-disclosure agreement and re-negotiating further details. If you look at VExpress, they're investing heavily and so on in developing the channel nationally, rolling out a fairly serious growth strategy.

“VExpress are definitely going to continue, but LAN Systems I'm not at liberty to talk about at the moment,” Webster said.

Vitnell said Sydney-based IPC expected OmniPCX to grow its business “at least” 50 percent in the first year, as more TDM users moved to IP telephony. The VAD had 12 staff but planned to take on more and open offices in Victoria, Queensland and ultimately South Australia and Western Australia.

IPC had “about a dozen” resellers but would target IPL's 70-strong channel as a source of potential partners, he said.

Parent company IPL Communication is a business partner of Cisco competitors Avaya and OKI Network Telecommunications. Alcatel and Cisco compete in overlapping market segments.

Robert Hastings, general manager at IPL Communication, admitted Avaya and Alcatel were competitors, although not for precisely the same share of the market.

“IPC and IPL Communication are different businesses,” he said. “Does [OmniPCX] compete with Avaya? Yes, but that's the market.” He could not confirm why IPL had bought the system integrator now known as IPC, saying it was a boardroom-level decision to which he was not a party.

“I don't think there's a reseller in Australia that doesn't have multiple brands,” he added.

However, he said he saw Alcatel as more a traditional voice player than a converged voice-and-data package provider. IPL's relationship with Avaya was still strong, he said.

He said Cisco was not targeting the SMB space as closely as was Avaya. The closest competitor of the SMB-focused Avaya IPOffice package, for example, was made by 3Com.

“That's a good question. Cisco seems not to be actively pushing in the lower space,” Hastings said. “Certainly, from my -- IPL's -- point of view, Cisco is the ominous threat apparent in this industry. Because of their capacity, not necessarily their product."

Voice player Alcatel pushed into data networking earlier this year, signing five new channel partners -- VExpress, BTAS, Integ Communications, Nexon Asia Pacific and Lanlink -- in May and June.

Charles Assaf, managing director at Nexon Asia Pacific, told CRN in June that the deals meant Alcatel should now be able on bulk to compete against market leader Cisco. “It will compete quite closely with Cisco now, but at a more competitive price,” he said.

In August, VExpress operations manager Grant Morrison told CRN that he expected to win resellers from both Cisco and Avaya in future deals.

Morrison claimed that certain IPL resellers, who had declined to be named, would promote other products over Avaya's when opportunities came up.

“What they are not doing is pushing Avaya solutions, but they won't walk away from their customers,” Morrison said at the time. “They're not walking away from Avaya but they want to drive the people across to new technology next time.”

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