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NEC-Intermedia Partnership: Execs Explain Their Cloud PBX Team-Up

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After years of trying to roll out its own cloud PBX offering, NEC determined it needed to team with a UCaaS provider. After considering various players, the NEC-Intermedia partnership was born..

Why did NEC choose Intermedia over larger providers such as 8×8, RingCentral or Vonage to provide its UCaaS service? Intermedia started as a Microsoft Exchange hosting provider well before Office 365 was in the pipeline. The company launched its cloud PBX offering nearly a decade ago. Today UCaaS is the largest part of Intermedia’s business.

Intermedia's Michael Gold

Intermedia’s Michael Gold

Intermedia CEO Michael Gold and NEC’s Americas channel chief, Marc Hebner, together discussed the NEC-Intermedia cloud PBX partnership with Channel Partners. The interview (slightly edited for clarity) took place via Intermedia’s AnyTime videoconferencing service.

Channel Partners: How is this NEC-Intermedia partnership structured?

Michael Gold: We have a unified communications platform with a cloud PBX, chat, video conferencing, file syncing and sharing – all the functionality that you would expect in an enterprise grade PBX – and a contact center solution. Our deal with NEC is to provide all of that on a white-label basis, so it will be NEC-branded. NEC will handle the sales, the marketing and the support. There are some other interesting technologies that eventually may be integrated with it from NEC. It includes some legacy NEC products, the on-premises PBX systems, that we will also integrate with to provide hybrid solutions. The core of the cloud product is the Intermedia platform.

CP: Has Intermedia done this before?

MG: This approach is not entirely new to us because we built our business selling mostly through partners. Eighty percent of our sales are through partners, and most of our partners buy under this reseller approach where they’re putting their brand on the product.  Most of our deals are private-label deals, but the one with NEC we’ve taken to another degree.

CP: When you say you’ve taken it to another degree, what does that mean?

MG: We’ve designed our product in a way that not only lets partners put their brand on it, but lets us sell it to them wholesale, and they handle the rest. For NEC, which has a great brand and global reach, it was more than just a business model. There’s a whole platform behind it that allowed NEC and NEC’s partners to run the business as if it’s their own.

NEC's Marc Hebner

NEC’s Marc Hebner

Marc Hebner: I think Intermedia has put a lot more work in this partnership that maybe they wouldn’t typically do. Michael alluded to the integrations that Intermedia and NEC are building between our legacy platforms and this new cloud offering.

CP: How does this cloud PBX partnership effect NEC’s channel?

MH: We’re going to market with three models, which is unique. As Michael noted, we’re working together on some of the customization and some of the other applications that we’re going to be building out here as part of our smart workspace framework. Intermedia is going to be a big part of that. It’s going to require us to be much more integrated than they probably have been with some of their other partners.

CP: What are your timelines for this?

Marc Hebner: We’re rolling out now. Initially we are rolling out with Poly and Yealink terminals. And we’ll have the NEC terminals ready to go end of June time frame. At this point, from an NEC standpoint, we’ve got a couple thousand channel partners here in the Americas. We’ve got about 80 million line subscribers, globally.

CP: Why has it taken so long for NEC to come out with a cloud UCaaS offering?

MH: We’ve had some false starts with …

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