Konftel Intros 3G Conference Phone

Device likely to be used by sales forces, disaster workers, and companies moving from landlines to wireless, says mobile analyst.
The first 3G conference phone for businesses is being launched by European-based Konftel, the company said Tuesday. The Konftel 300M will use a SIM card to connect mobile offices. It will also come with a USB connection to computers.

"The benefit of 3G is you can use the phone anywhere so you can be wireless, but... you possibly still need to plug the conference phone into a power source even though it's 3G," said Chris Hazelton, research director, mobile and wireless, at the 451 Group, adding that it's not clear if the Konftel 300M uses a battery.

He said the 3G conference phone will likely be used in office settings for sales presentations so other remote workers can participate "and you know exactly the tools you're using... and you don't have to worry about network connectivity because you have 3G." It may also be used by disaster teams working both domestically and worldwide, since wireless networks can generally be repaired a lot quicker, he said, and in that scenario it could be a helpful tool if it has a battery.

Every European phone comes with a SIM card, and if the Konftel 300M can read contact numbers off of it, the phone can be used to easily dial people up over 3G, he said. The 3G conference phone could also be useful for companies looking to move their employees to mobile phones and smartphones in place of desk phones. This could result in a more streamlined, single bill with an unlimited voice plan, instead of having multiple carriers, he said.

"I think there is kind of a fear from desktop phone vendors that they're going to be displaced by mobile phones. If companies are increasingly paying for mobile phones for employees, why pay for both when a mobile phone has a better calling plan?" said Hazelton.

However, landlines guarantee high availability from a carrier people are familiar with, he added.

"I see [the 3G conference phone] as a good feature to have, but not something that will drive someone to adopt the phone over another competitor just because it's 3G,'' he said. The phone will have a small pool of users, but it won't "tip the balance" and become a significant part of the videoconferencing market, since most companies aren't yet looking for 3G, and a number of smartphones have very good speakers, Hazelton said.

Potential competitors could include videoconferencing giant Polycom, Hazelton said.

Konftel said the phone would be launched in the fourth quarter, but did not release pricing. Hazelton said Konftel's IP version costs around $500.

Konftel, based in Sweden, has been manufacturing conference phones since 1988.

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