Avaya’s New E169 SIP Media Station

by David Lover | Arrow Systems Integration

If your customers are like a lot of the ones I’ve been talking to, they’re finding that it makes sense to support their users (or a subset of their users) differently than they had in the past. In the old days, we just never even thought twice about providing a hard phone (ie 96×1, 96xx, 46xx, etc) to every new employee that started. It was all simply part of the new hire onboarding package. But more and more employees are asking “Hey why did you send me this phone? I’d rather just use my cell phone.” In reality, they’re not saying they don’t want enterprise telephony. They’re simply saying that they don’t plan to be sitting at their desk every time they need to talk to someone. Avaya has certainly come up with some great SIP-based mobile applications for when the user is away from their desk. One-X Mobile SIP, Avaya Communicator for Android, and Flare Experience for iPad are just a few of the apps that let us be connected inside or outside your normal work environment. But as great as these application are, you soon realize “Hey wait a minute. I do actually sit at my desk quite a bit. And I hate using my cell phone for those long calls at my desk. I’m burning through battery like crazy, and I want better voice quality than I’m getting from my cell phone. I guess I need a desk phone also.” Or do you? What you really need is a way to augment your mobile device with the missing pieces that you so desperately need when sitting at your desk. This is where Avaya’s new E169 Media Station comes into play.

Let me just start out with how much I love this device. Normally, when I’m working from home, my standard practice is to plug my iPad/iPhone into USB power and pair up with my Jabra 510 speakerphone. Side note, I’ve been installing these outlets in every strategic place in my house to make sure I’m always near USB power http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J3PMU4C. The Jabra 510 is a great speakerphone, but offers no privacy, and tends to get annoying to anyone around me. The E169 Media Station solves all of this. It is a base station for just about any mobile device. It has docking capability for a mobile phone or a tablet. To be flexible, it ships with one Micro USB, one 30-pin Apple connector, and one Lightning Apple connector. It also includes a variety of inserts to keep your device firmly situated and stable. This modular approach gives us the flexibility to adapt to future devices (as long as they’re ultimately USB connected, which everything is now a days). Its speakerphone sounds fantastic, rivaling that of my personal Bose Bluetooth Dock. Beamforming spatial audio, 4 dynamic echo cancelling microphones, 6 high performance speakers, and a downward firing subwoofer, make this the best sounding SIP phone I’ve ever heard.

What’s interesting about Avaya’s approach on this is that there are two modes supported. The first uses the media station as the actual SIP phone. It functions with or without a mobile device docked. Its clean, simplistic, physical look is complimented with a “companion” app, available for iOS and Android, that lets you program every detail of the base station. Administratively, we can determine how long the base station keeps the identity of the mobile device once it is removed from the base. I can set it to lose the identity immediately, or keep it infinitely, or keep it for a specific amount of time following the undocking. The other option is to simply use it as a Bluetooth audio device for the existing Avaya mobile apps.

There’s definitely advantages and disadvantages to each of these. For example, the base station itself is very easy to use, switching back and forth between speaker and handset like you would expect. It is a generic SIP’ing 19 phone, with interoperability to many different SIP environments. While these 3rd party SIP profiles are selectable, they are NOT yet supported by Avaya. But as an Avaya endpoint, it means that the E169 is NOT an Avaya AST (Advanced SIP Telephony) device. So, no feature buttons, advanced conferencing, etc. It subscribes to the Message-Summary feature set for MWI, but that’s about it. It does, however, support the same methodology for settings files and firmware upgrade files. As in, when the media station boots up, it looks on the HTTPSRVR server for a E1x9MSUpgrade.txt file that helps it get its firmware updates. That file then calls for a customized settings files named E169settings.txt. This is exactly how it works with existing Avaya IP phones. Avaya has full plans to add more advanced telephony functionality in future releases.

When using it as a Bluetooth base station for Avaya’s existing AST devices (such as Flare Experience for iPad, one-X Mobile SIP, and Avaya Communicator for Android), you know get a lot more features and tighter integration. BUT those apps currently don’t know how to talk to the other cool features of the E169 Media Station (Handset Keypad, volume control, Mute, MWI, etc). Avaya tells me that the future versions of the Avaya mobile apps will become Media Station aware. With that, you will be able to use the cool advanced apps, but can leverage the hardware of the E169 directly, the same way the Avaya Media Station companion app does today.

A couple of things I wish were different. I’ve already found a need for 4 USB ports. Right now, there are only 2, and with the handset using one of them, there’s only room for ONE docked device. So, while the E169 can physically dock a tablet and a phone, you can only use one at a time. This makes total sense from a user-interface perspective, but I actually would like to have both connected for charging purposes. It also can only store a Bluetooth profile for one device at a time. So, having a Bluetooth link to your mobile device AND a Bluetooth headset doesn’t currently seem to be an option. There isn’t a traditional RJ11 headset jack. Headset support comes from USB or eventually the integrated 3.5mm mini stereo headset jack. The good news is that Avaya has already tested the USB integration to the Jabra 9460 and 9470 and offer full support there.

I’ve been using the E169 for a week now and have become a big fan. General Availability comes July 7th. Avaya will released a smaller, “mid-range” version, called the E159, in August. The functionality introduced initially is really good. But the roadmap for future releases looks even better. Bottom line, the E169 and the E159 are a great way for your customers’ telecom teams to stay relevant to how their end-users want to communicate. BYOD is very real. Consumer-grade device mobility is very real. But enterprise-class communications is also still very real. Help your customers live the best of both worlds. Talk to them about Avaya’s new Media Stations. For more details, talk to your Arrow SI Sales Rep.

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