Aastra Technologies has upgraded its telephony system for the small to medium business sector, after adding fixed mobile convergence (FMC) functionality to the latest version of its IntelliGate telephone system.

IntelliGate 7.7, according to the company, is designed to make the 'complete integration of mobile phones into corporate networks as seamless and user-friendly as possible'.

This comes, after telecoms analyst group Analysys Mason warned earlier this month, that the economic downturn meant that businesses would spend less on fixed-line voice budgets, as enterprises look to mobile phones as a cheaper communications alternative.

IntelliGate 7.7 now includes a dedicated client for Symbian mobile phones (typically Nokia and some Samsung handsets), which will give mobile users access to features more commonly found on desk-based phones, such as conferencing, call transfer and even call back. A similar client is being developed for Windows Mobile 6 and BlackBerry-based handsets for a future release.

This dedicated client for Symbian handsets includes a fairly nifty feature, which Aastra calls a 'take' facility. This allows a user to seamlessly ‘take' over an active call from their desk phones with their mobile devices, or vice versa, if they need to move around, without the caller being aware.

"If I am on a call and need to leave my desk phone, in order to go to a meeting for example, I simply fire up the mobile and then active the client," said Mike Ballantine, business development manager at Aastra. "On the client, I go into features, then press 'take'. The client dials the PBX and dials a pick up code, which then picks up the telephone call."

"The pick-up is standard feature in most PBX's (i.e. allows people to pickup anyone's phone if they are not at their desk), and that is all that 'take' is," explained Ballantine. "We have transported that feature to a mobile client."

"The client runs in the foreground, and makes a GSM call into the PBX. It is then SLI authorised for registered users, and then provides them with a dial tone," he added. This means that mobile users can also use the client to make outgoing calls via the PBX.

It is a novel use of a PBX feature," he added. "Of course, it also works the other way, so when you come into the office, you can transfer the call back to the desk phone and switch off the mobile. It just means that users are not tied to their desks if they have to go a meeting."

Other features of IntelliGate 7.7 includes the usual 'one number function', whereby users can be easily reached on a single telephone number, regards of which devices they are using or whatever their location. Shared directories and call lists between office desk phones, 2380i soft phone or a GSM phone with the Aastra mobile client is also available.

IntelliGate also integrates with Microsoft Exchange. Outlook directories can be accessed via name dial and directory search directly from the Aastra office desk phones and any GSM phones with the Aastra mobile client.

Aastra also says that the call routing capabilities of IntelliGate 7.7 also include 'least cost routing' and 'personal call routing profiles' for calls made from the Aastra mobile client.

"Businesses have come under increasing pressure to offer flexible working for employees. New legislations oblige employers to be more positive toward employee requests for flexible working conditions including time, location and contracts" said Matthew Ball, senior analyst at Canalys.

"FMC can be part of a solution that helps businesses comply with these regulations while establishing a productive and agile workforce. Aastra is in a strong position to help small and medium sized businesses increase the flexibility and mobility of their workforce".

The IntelliGate 7.7 software is now available on all IntelliGate systems via Aastra's reseller channel. The IP-based PBX can range from four to six hundred extensions on any mix of IP and traditional lines, although Aastra mostly tends to sell most in the 60 to 70 extension range.

There is no word on pricing, as according to Ballantine, it "really depends on the type of installation the customer requires."

Back in February this year, Aastra acquired the enterprise PBX business of Ericsson for an undisclosed amount.