Panasonic Canada steps up the options for small and mid-sized businesses and enterprises (SMBs and SMEs) in the Canadian market with a new cloud-based telephony service offering called simply Panasonic Hosted PBX.
Panasonic has long been delivering telephony solutions for the SMB communications market, including analog, digital and IP and SIP business phone and voicemail systems, associated voice and unified communications (UC) applications, and wired/wireless telephones and user devices. On-premises installations have been the norm, but the company has also implemented managed private cloud solutions for larger customers using its SIP-based KX-NS1000 communications server. These managed solutions are similar to a cloud solution in that the system hardware is located and managed by Panasonic in a data center which relieves the customer of dealing with ongoing system upgrades and maintenance.
Now, Panasonic Canada introduces a fully cloud-based solution using third party softswitch technology in conjunction with Panasonic’s SIP-based desktop and wireless phones. This includes three hosted offers: (1) a cost-effective Small Business Bundle (SBB) for very small businesses with fewer than eight extension users (a market segment that Panasonic says represents 75% Canadian businesses today); (2) a Small Medium Enterprise Business Plan (SME) for multi-site organizations and/or those that need more scale or that have more sophisticated communications requirements; and (3) SIP trunking services that complement Panasonic on-premises system installations. The new SIP Trunk Business Plan can provide cost savings in terms of calls and maintenance, additional reliability (calls can be rerouted to redundant data lines or mobile phones) and scalability since virtual connections make it easier to add lines or services.
Panasonic Hosted PBX customers can select the service delivery method that best fits their needs in terms of cost and quality. Options include cost-effective over-the-top (OTT) transmission via public Internet or private managed connections – either Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or Internet Virtual Private Networking (VPN) – to ensure quality of service, business continuity and security. The Hosted PBX service can also run over a 4G LTE Wireless network or use this technology for survivability/failover should the traditional WAN connections fail. Nine (9) data centers across Canada provide geo-redundancy (failover) to alternate data centers, ensuring that communications will continue with minimal or no interruption in the event of a hardware or data center failure.
Two Panasonic Hosted PBX user plans come with unlimited local and long distance calling within Canada. A North American calling plan is an extra fee. Each offers a good complement of standard telephony features, including voicemail with email notification, mobile twinning to a smartphone or tablet and PSTN failover during LAN/WAN failures. Optional add-on services are also available.
Small Business Bundle (SBB)
- Target Market: Small Businesses in Canada with fewer than eight extension users
- Calling Plans: Canada (included) or North America (optional); each calling plan comes with two concurrent SIP call sessions (expandable to eight sessions), one DID number with 911 service listing, one voice mailbox with email notification per user seat
- User Devices and Hardware: SBB is based on Panasonic’s KX-TGP600G SIP-DECT System. Three- or five-year plans include the base station and two Panasonic DECT handsets (the KX-TPA60 DECT mobile handset or the KX-TPA65 DECT desktop model); customers can add up to six more DECT handsets.
- Pricing: Starting from $35.95 per month (includes two handsets and two SIP sessions)
- Optional Services: Additional SIP calling sessions, fax SIP call sessions, virtual fax, DID, 411 directory listing, toll-free calling plan, IP phone provisioning, local number porting
Small Medium Enterprise Business Plan (SME)
- Target Market: SME businesses in Canada with more than eight extension users (scales to any size organization)
- Calling Plans: Canada (included) or North America (optional); each calling plan includes one voice mailbox with email notification per user seat
- User Devices: One Panasonic KX-HDV330 SIP phone 4.3-inch color touch display is included with 3- or 5-year plans (the KX-TGP600G SIP-DECT system and KX-TPA DECT phones can be substituted as an alternative).
- Pricing: $24.95-$27.95 per user per month, depending on optional services selected
- Optional Services: Fax SIP call sessions, virtual fax, DID, 411 directory listing, 911 service listing, toll-free calling plan, IP phone provisioning, local number porting, auto attendant/IVR, paging, call center, call recording, 8-party conference bridge
Recent surveys reveal that hybrid cloud-premises deployments are a growing preference as these protect a customer’s existing on-site investments in business telephony equipment, while allowing them to opt for pay-as-you-go cloud-based services for new locations, remote employees or for adding advanced capabilities as-a-service. A number of traditional telecom manufacturers have leveraged their expertise in on-premises telephony solutions to introduce a cloud-based alternative that uses the same software code base (e.g. Avaya IP Office, Mitel MiVoice Business and Zultys MX, to name just a few). The common software for both on-site and cloud-based solutions means that customers can use the same phones and endpoints, experience the same functionality and access the same administration software whether they deploy a system on-site, select the monthly subscription service, or utilize a mix of the two in a hybrid configuration. Further, any new software developments, effectively “kill two birds with one stone” since the improvements will benefit both deployment types (premises and cloud).
Panasonic Canada has taken a different approach by partnering with a third party softswitch provider rather than cloud-enabling one of its own business phone systems. However, the two companies have worked together to develop tight integrations that make hybrid cloud-premises deployments possible. A multi-site customer can have a SIP-based Panasonic telephony platform installed in some sites (Panasonic’s KX-NS1000, NS700, NSX1000 or NSX2000 SIP-based platforms), while subscribing to the Panasonic Hosted PBX at other locations or home offices. All locations – whether these are cloud or premises deployments – can utilize the same Panasonic telephones and can communicate using a coordinated dialing plan.
Panasonic Canada is not yet offering any standalone productivity applications as-a-service to customers with on-site PBX installations, but has been looking at the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of offering historical reporting as-a-service.
Panasonic Canada notes that it still sees significant demand for digital technology from certain business verticals with strict security requirements or those that require custom integrations such as healthcare organizations with tightly integrated nurse call systems. In fact, recent Nemertes research confirms that while many companies are evaluating cloud-based UC, many are opting to stay with an on-premises system, particularly when cost savings is the greater concern. For many businesses, existing TDM (analog or digital) infrastructure continues to function well and meet their needs, and they can supplement this with IP technology if desired, such as adding Panasonic IP phones for remote staff or subscribing to Panasonic’s SIP trunking services.
Panasonic Canada’s cloud strategy is not about encouraging its customers to move to the cloud, but to have a cloud option in their portfolio for those that may be looking to avoid the up-front expense of purchasing and installing on-site equipment (and to take advantage of the many other budgetary and strategic benefits that subscribing to business communications as-a-service can bring). Cloud solutions enter into nearly every business communications evaluation these days, so a company must have a cloud option to stay relevant.
Like other established telecom manufacturers, Panasonic sees the value in offering a full spectrum of deployments – cloud, premises and hybrid arrangements – as customers can select the combination of on-premises equipment and cloud services that best fits their particular business challenges. It is also an approach that pure cloud communications providers cannot provide.
Currently, we are told there is no plan to extend the Hosted PBX offering from Panasonic Canada to the US market. Stay tuned.