Convenience of an all-in-one communication system

VMS Technology announces the establishment of its new holdings company, and unveils its latest enterprise communication server, the REDtone TECS.

REDtone aims to stage a "tele-revolution" with the unveiling of its latest enterprise PC-PBX server

SINGAPORE - More communication players aim to deliver convenience to end-users by adopting unified messaging as part of their value-added offerings. The aggregation of voice mail, e-mail and fax mail into a single communication system has become a concept that appeals to many business users, especially mobile ones.

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Kuala Lumpur-based manufacturer of computer telephony (CT) products, VMS Technology, which recently announced the establishment of its new holdings company, REDtone International Pte Ltd, has also joined the UMS (unified messaging service) craze.

The group has unveiled what it bills as "a single complete communications clearing house" - the REDtone TECS (total enterprise communication server) - which allows companies to integrate all business communications into one PC server.

However, TECS is more than a mere vehicle for unified messaging, said REDtone spokesperson, Vanna Chin.

"TECS has UMS features but further from that, it is an open platform where you can build other software like a smart phonebook or CRM software to work seamlessly," Chin told ZDNet Asia.

The communication server comes with multiple modules that include full PBX (private branch exchange) functions, virtual PBX extension, Internet-based configuration, automatic call distribution, PC-phone, Internet telephony, unified messaging, interactive voice response (IVR) system and open CT server.

Chin claimed that popular UMS providers like 2bsure.com and T2Mail use the Internet as the medium for data transmission and cannot provide features such as automated-attendant.

TECS, on the other hand, utilises the power of standard telephone lines and offers what REDtone calls 'CPE' - customer premise equipment. CPE, Chin said, refers to office equipment such as fax machines, copiers, phone systems, voicemail systems, telecommunications lines and servers.

Wei Chuan Beng, CEO, REDtone International, said that the initial target market for TECS is the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and branch offices of large corporations and multinational companies (MNCs), including start-up companies which want to upgrade their telecommunication system.

Plans are underway to enhance TECS' capacity to cater to larger companies by utilising high-speed broadband connectivity.

REDtone intends to invest some S$4.6 million over the next few years into sales and marketing support services for TECS.

"We foresee that in three years' time, REDtone TECS will represent at least 70 percent of the company's whole business, hence the large investment," Wei explained.

Wei added that the company's proximity to the "home market" gives it a competitive edge over US-based companies such as Altigen Communications and Artisoft Inc.

REDtone has adopted a two-pronged pricing strategy to promote TECS. Companies can opt for outright purchase and get a basic system comprising PBX, voicemail, auto-attendant, virtual phonebook, and least-cost routing, for S$20,000.

Companies can also purchase products and services via the company's own total communication service provider (TCSP) programme, which is a "pay as you use" model.

This programme allows companies to install REDtone TECS without having to purchase the system. Customers may rent the whole communication system by paying a monthly subscription fee of S$488 for a basic package. REDtone will manage and maintain the system for the customer.

According to Chin, this program helps to lower a client's capital investment as well as resolve the problem of equipment obsolescence. Clients can also get up-to-date software and upgrades easily. VMS Technology is offering value-added packages with local telco operator StarHub as well as networking and communication equipment developer Natural MicroSystems (NMS). The package offers customers REDtone TECS, StarHub ISDN lines, NMS card and communication server features from a single vendor.

According to Chin, the partnership with StarHub helps to relieve customers from coordinating with several vendors in order to retrieve their e-mails, faxes and voice mail.

"With the tie-up, customers not only gain by paying less for such a one-stop system, but also get the telecommunication lines with it. Our partners benefit through the sale of their products bundled with ours and this gives an upward sales figures for all parties," said Chin. REDtone International recently received a total funding of S$4.88 million (US$2.78 million) from investors ChemQuest Sdn Bhd and Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Venture Corp Sdn Bhd, bringing the total capitalization to S$12 million (US$6.83 million).

"We will use the funds for our expansion into the Asian region, as well as to market the various business units of REDtone International," said Wei.

VMS Technology generated some S$5 million (US$2.85 million) in revenues in Asia Pacific for fiscal year 2000. The group hopes to achieve S$100 million (US$56.93 million) over the next five years.

The company is now focusing on three main countries - Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong - and intends to expand into Africa, Europe, China and US, within the next three years.

"We expanded into India and Indonesia last year, and this year, we hope to expand to Thailand and China as telecommunication policies there present a good opportunity for us," said Wei.

To date, the company has more than 50 customers who have purchased REDtone TECS since it was commercially available in Malaysia late last year. Among them are Arthur Andersen, OCBC Bank, Nestle Products, Carat Media Services, MSC Trustgate, and Bumiputra-Commerce Bank.

Founded in 1996, VMS is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, with multiple branches within Malaysia and subsidiary companies in Singapore, Hong Kong and China.