Ferranti Business Communications Ltd reckons that the time is ripe to come out of the closet and the traditionally low profile company is busy throwing down the gauntlet to private telecommunications majors such as the former Plessey arm of GEC Plessey Telecommunications. The four-year-old Ferranti division, originally a joint venture with GTE Corp, is feeling more confident following two years of profitability and will enter the facsimile market this year and look for increased market share in both keysystems and the PABX arenas. It has set a goal of 10% for this year on the keysystems side on the back of its Rhapsody product for which it has an exclusive distributorship deal with the Japanese manufacturer Oki Electric. Marketing manager Peter Boyes is more guarded about the company’s ambitions for the Omni PABX range currently under licence from Atea, a subsidiary of Siemens since the sale of most of GTE’s European interests to the West German giant, but says that Plessey is the prime player to take on, even more so since its alliance with GEC into GEC Plessey Telecomunications. Analysts however are sceptical about the timing of this bout of Ferranti glasnost, pointing out that the digital PABX market has peaked and is entering the replacement-only phase, while the market for keysystems is desparately competitive. STC recently launched a product that is directly compatible with its PABX while the UK arm of Southwestern Bell is set to bombard the UK market with a range of keysystem-related products. Ferranti Business Communications is in a stronger position since it bought out GTE’s minority share last year, and has already exercised this new found freedom by looking further afield for its products as illustrated by the Oki deal. But it has also embarked upon a new dealer strategy to woo more customers. Boyes claims that customers have generally had a poor deal since the liberalisation of the market, which has seen not only the rise but the fall of many dealers. Ferranti is trying to restore confidence by cutting out the wholesaler avenues and strengthen dealer chains through compulsory training.
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