LG-Ericsson Venture Aims at SMB's Network Needs

A networking joint venture formed out of a series of deals over the past several years is launching Monday in the U.S. under the name LG-Ericsson USA.

LG-Ericsson USA plans to offer small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) a combination of LAN and phone gear that includes large-enterprise features, according to Tony Stramandinoli, vice president of marketing.

The new company brings together data LAN equipment from SMC Networks with enterprise telephony products from a South Korean venture between LG and Nortel Networks. Ericsson acquired Nortel's majority stake in that venture in June as part of the Canadian telecommunications vendor's breakup.

The venture's products will include both IP (Internet Protocol) phone systems and hybrid platforms with IP and earlier phone technologies. On the data LAN side, LG-Ericsson USA will sell products ranging from small, unmanaged switches and Wi-Fi access points to managed Layer 3 routing switches with 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Those products come out of SMC Networks, a wholly owned subsidiary of Accton Technology of Taiwan. It's the second recent change for the LAN products, which just last November were renamed as the Edgecore line. SMC's cable-modem business will remain separate from LG-Ericsson USA.

The venture may not make an immediate impact on technology, but it should appeal to business customers and channel partners in a crowded market, said Infonetics analyst Matthias Machowinski.

"Where I see the edge here is better brand-name recognition and a more complete product portfolio," Machowinski said.

As organizations gradually migrate to IP telephony, the products that traditionally were called voice and data equipment increasingly go together. "If you look at where communications is going, it's going to be a very important combination," Machowinski said.

Being able to get both types of gear from one vendor should make it easier for smaller customers, as well as system integrators, to put together an infrastructure, Machowinski said. It also will set LG-Ericsson apart from some other vendors, such as Mitel and ShoreTel, he said.

Like many other vendors, Cisco Systems and Avaya the most prominent among them, LG-Ericsson has a vision of combined voice and data networks growing into sophisticated UC (unified communications) systems. Among other things, these advanced platforms can allow employees to easily see whether their colleagues are available for text, voice, video or document collaboration sessions and smoothly switch among those modes.

LG-Ericsson will include some unified communications components, such as integration with Microsoft Outlook, and will offer its equipment as a hardware platform for UC software from other vendors, Stramandinoli said.

A challenge for LG-Ericsson and its competitors, large and small, is that although there are some work scenarios where such capabilities are useful, many enterprises haven't yet bought into the vision of UC, Machowinski said.

"A lot of companies aren't 100 percent sure what kind of value they'll be getting out of unifying all these systems," he said.

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