Linksys finds new voice in SMBs

Linksys is partnering service providers to bundle VoIP services with its equipment, and hopes that SMBs will bite.

SINGAPORE--Networking gear maker Linksys has hooked up with broadband service providers in Asia-Pacific to sell bundled VoIP services to small and medium-sized businesses.

So far, it has tied up with several service providers including Jaring and Nasioncom in Malaysia; Bayantel in the Philippines; and StarHub in Singapore.

In a press briefing held here this week, Sangeev Gupta, regional sales manager for Asia Pacific at Linksys, said the company wants to grow its VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) revenues and that it makes no business sense to sell only hardware in the SMB space.

He noted that in addition to these partnerships, Linksys has also appointed "many VoIP value-added resellers" who have customized offerings for SMBs using Linksys VoIP products.

Well-known in the small office/home office (SOHO) and SMB markets for its hubs, switches, wireless access points and routers, Linksys was acquired by Cisco in 2003. One year ago, Linksys launched an analog terminal adapter which allows users to make voice calls over cable or DSL connections using standard analog phones. >Linksys founder Victor Tsao said the company has sold two million VoIP ports between September 2004 and May 2005, and is now ready to capture a bigger piece of the consumer and SMB VoIP pie.

Tsao, who was in Singapore to launch Linksys' new secure Wi-Fi home installation product, told ZDNetAsia in an interview that the time is ripe for VoIP.

"VoIP, as a 'killer app' for the last 10 years, didn't pan out," he said. "Worldwide, bandwidth wasn't great, networks were dropping [voice] packets, and the adoption rate was low.

"Now, bandwidth is pretty good, interoperability is solid now. We have enough bandwidth and the technology to do priority settings. We haven't heard [customers] complain about the quality of service (QoS)," he explained.

Cisco made its intentions known in April this year when it acquired--for Linksys--Sipura Technologyfor US$68 million. Sipura's technology was incorporated in some Linksys VoIP adapters, including those integrated into home routers and gateways, and a multi-line IP phone for the consumer and SOHO market.

At the time of the announcement, Linksys said it would continue to work with the service providers that Sipura had already forged relationships with, as well as use its traditional retail channels to target consumers and SOHO environments with Sipura's VoIP products.

Tsao said Sipura's consumer-grade session initiation protocol (SIP) technologies and QoS-related technologies will be incorporated into future Linksys products, which will not only enable customers to plug the analog adapter into individual handset phones--a feature available in current products--but into the key systems and PBX phones of offices as well.

>He added: "And even beyond that is video. Say, you have a TV at home, you could plug the adapter in, and [your TV] becomes a videoconferencing device."