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For small to midsize businesses looking to trade their traditional phone lines for an IP system without having to make a large upfront investment, Whaleback Systems is launching a managed IP PBX system that runs entirely over broadband.

The SMB1500 system is designed to save smaller companies money by providing an all-inclusive, flat-rate fee per workstation. The package includes unlimited calling throughout North America, an IP multiline handset, voice mail, video calling, desktop messaging, remote access, caller ID, speed dial, call forwarding and many other features. It connects multiple offices and employees on the go, providing a unified calling experience for all.

With Whaleback’s service, only a broadband connection, such as DSL, cable modem or a T-1 line, is needed, allowing companies to say goodbye to their traditional carrier altogether, said Mark Galvin, president and CEO of Whaleback. In earlier IP PBX systems, voice traffic was typically converted at a gateway on the premises from packets into digital circuit signals to be carried over phone lines.

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“We actually exit the building on IP on broadband,” he said. “The idea here is to keep it in its packetized form as long as you can.”

Part of the cost savings comes from technology built on standards, specifically SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), which will drive down the cost of phones, Galvin said. Open standards give Whaleback an advantage over larger vendors whose offerings are more expensive, he said.

“The proprietary guys can charge you $400 for a fancy IP phone to sit on your desk,” he said. “It’s a bad thing for established vendors for customers to move to SIP. It will probably be some time before the big guys come along.”

Whaleback leases phones built by Polycom and plans to offer the option of other vendors’ handsets soon, Galvin said.

Warren and Morris Ltd., an executive recruiting firm in Portsmouth, N.H., has tested the SMB1500 for several weeks, said Scott Warren, partner with the firm. The greatest benefit so far has been cost savings, Warren said.

“We like the idea of a fixed rate,” Warren said. “We’ve cut our costs in half. Our long-distance bill is nonexistent now.”

The small office traded in an outdated, unwieldy PBX that hadn’t been entirely reliable or easy to use, Warren said.

“Now what we have is a computer just a little bit bigger than a laptop, and that now is our phone server,” he said. “It’s very clean, very simple.”

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