ShoreTel plugs into Skype for SIP

ShoreTel's unified communications software is the first to become interoperable with the VoIP system, meaning Skype users can call ShoreTel customers for free

ShoreTel has announced that its unified communications software is now interoperable with Skype for SIP.

The enterprise telephony provider said on Wednesday that its customers will be able to register to try the Skype software, which is still in beta. SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, is an open standard that allows calls to be initiated on an IP network, among other features.

Businesses can now receive inbound calls from Skype users through their existing ShoreTel unified communications system, without any charges being incurred by the caller. Conversely, companies can direct outgoing calls through Skype for SIP to fixed-line and mobile phones worldwide, ShoreTel said.

ShoreTel's certification by Skype also means that businesses can add a 'click to call' button to their website that will allow customers to use a free VoIP connection to reach sales and customer support staff on landline or mobile phones.

"The major benefit of this for customers is that it's going to reduce call costs and save money," said Jerome Joanny, senior SIP product manager at ShoreTel. "Users will be able to direct outbound calls through Skype to have free calls with other Skype users, and Skype users can call ShoreTel customers for free."

ShoreTel customers will also be able to purchase additional Skype telephone numbers so that they can set up additional telephone numbers for remote and international workers.

The deal could help Skype to increase its presence in the enterprise market, but there are some substantial potential stumbling blocks, according to Ben Tudor, an analyst at Current Analysis.

"This is a really interesting deal because companies have been looking for a way to integrate PBX systems, SIP systems and Skype for quite some time, but it's not everything that they’ve been looking for," Tudor said. He pointed out that companies that have been using landlines for international calls might see a drop in performance, with problems such as stuttering, when they use Skype.

"It's free, but if the internet falls over, so does Skype — and that's why most IT directors wouldn't consider it seriously. But for something ad hoc, this could be great," he added.

Tudor also noted that the recent sell-off of Skype by eBay calls into question whether the product will remain unchanged. "It's possible [the new owners] might decide it shouldn't be peer-to-peer any more, or that it should use a different protocol, and that might leave business users in a poor position. The new owners might want to take the product in a different direction, where businesses end up paying to license specific parts of Skype, say."