Avaya's Nortel buy might not power it over Cisco

New study claims combined Nortel and Avaya might won't overthrow Cisco's networking market dominance

Even after it buys Nortel, Avaya won't dominate Cisco in the battle for business-communications customers, according to a new study.

IntelliCom Analytics says that in the third quarter of this year, Cisco scored No. 1 in sales of business communications gear, outstripping number two Avaya and number three Nortel's revenues combined.

The numbers released Monday put Cisco ahead with 28.7% of sales, followed by Avaya with 18.4% and then Nortel with 9.9% -- a combined total of 28.3%. The numbers are for North American sales. Global numbers are due out in a week or so.Analysts have said that one key reason for Avaya buying Nortel is that the deal would give the combined entity a dramatic lead in the race for business customers. At the VoiceCon conference this fall, analyst Alan Sulkin, president of TEQConsult Group said, "They're going to be a powerhouse. The last time somebody had a marketshare like this was AT&T in 1900."

At the same show, analyst Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group, quoted the combined Avaya/Nortel as holding 42% share of the North American market.

The difference between the numbers discussed at VoiceCon and those from IntelliCom is that the stats quoted at VoiceCon referred to numbers of phone line equivalents each vendor shipped vs. the total sales reaped for the products as measured by Intellicom.

While Avaya clearly improves its position either way, how much is open to interpretation, says Frank Stinson, partner and senior analyst with IntelliCom, who wrote "Intellicom Market Performance Dashboard 3rd Quarter 2009."

Both measurements are muddy because VoIP PBXs and peripheral systems aren't as cleanly measurable as were traditional PBXs and the phones that connected to them, he says. VoIP servers can be sold as software with hardware from a separate vendor a range of peripheral hardware and software. So a customer could buy a VoIP server but keep its traditional PBX in service via a gateway and make continued use of the old handsets, he says.

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