Ken Camp: "I've been Blueboxed"
Welcome to Disruptive Telephony!

Note to Siemens: Need better fact-checking: your OpenStage phones are NOT the first IP phones w/WLAN

(Originally posted to

Now I realize that often in sales and marketing, some folks tend to exaggerate claims... or split hairs to make various claims... or (more often) don't do enough fact-checking to verify their claims... but it rather annoys me when I see someone making claims that are just wrong - especially when the claims overlook products made by my own employer! As readers know, I don't really tout Mitel products here all that much, but in this case, I feel compelled to write a bit about one. In the recent announcements by Siemens of their new OpenStage SIP phones, which Ken Camp covered so well here, Siemens makes the claim in their PowerPoint presentation (available from Ken's post):

The first time an enterprise desktop phone has been able to connect to both wired and wireless infrastructures.
Um... no. You see, Mitel has been shipping this little product called the "Mitel WLAN Stand" since July of this year (2006) which just clips onto the back of any of our enterprise desk phones and allows that phone to connect to a 802.11 network. I've got one here in my home office... I'd be glad to show anyone if they'd like. In fact, our product has a few advantages over what Siemens announced:
  1. It is available and shipping today.
  2. It works with existing Mitel sets. You don't need to purchase new sets... just use your existing (52xx/53xx) sets and order some WLAN stands to make them wireless.
  3. It works across our full range of sets, not just the top two most expensive sets.
  4. A PC can be plugged into the PC port on the back of the IP phone and use the wireless connection (in fairness, I don't know from the info provided thus far in the announcements whether the OpenStage phones would support this... but ours can).
  5. A Mitel set with a WLAN stand can be either a 802.11 client or a 802.11 access point.
Think about this last point for a moment if you have a rapid deployment you want to make. Say you want to drop a team of auditors into a client company location for a few weeks. You have Internet access at the location, but you want the employees to have extensions off of your main office wherever that may be and you want them to securely be able to talk back to your main office. So you ship to the location a bunch of Mitel sets with WLAN stands - all configured as Teleworker sets that will connect back to your Teleworker server on the edge of your corporate network. One of those sets gets a connection to the local wired network and has its WLAN stand configured in AP mode. All the other sets have their WLAN stands configured in client mode... and previously all the appropriate WPA/WPA2 keys were set up so that all communication between the sets is secured. Ta da... beautiful little rapidly-deployed "branch office"... all secure... wireless... and to make it even more convenient, through our "hot desking" the auditors can login with the same extension that they use at the main office. Powerful stuff... and it works today.

On the more mundane level, I have a WLAN Stand here in my home office which gives me the flexibility to move my IP phone to wherever I want to plug it in. So if I wanted to work out on the back patio (a wee bit too chilly right now), I just run an extension cord out there, plug in the phone, and I'm operational. (Next summer I'll have to get some pics sitting in our hammock...) In an corporate office environment, these stands could be used to locate phones in areas that are not served by LAN connectivity... or where you don't want the various cables running across the floor or tables (of course, you still need power).

So the net is that someone there at Siemens needed to do a wee bit more fact-checking, I'd say. Perhaps someone junior was assigned the task. Perhaps they just simply missed it. I know a good number of folks there at Siemens and I have great respect for what they do... so I'm certainly inclined to think this was just a fact-checking mistake.

Now, I'll grant them that their OpenStage USB key is definitely a neat solution. Smaller form factor and very easy to distribute updates when you want to support a new 802.11 variant. (Of course, the security guy in me also thinks... "very easy for someone to steal or misplace".) So if they want to make the claim:
The first time an enterprise desktop phone has been able to connect to both wired and wireless infrastructures using a USB WLAN adapter.
Well, okay... they are probably right on that one. It's that last clause that's the important part.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,