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Mitel

From Academic Kids

Mitel is a high-tech company specializing in the sale of voice communication equipment for business. Michael (Mike) Cowpland and Terry Matthews founded it in 1973 (officially on June 6th, 1973). Its name is a combination of the founders’ first names and their first product - MIke and TErry's Lawnmowers. They originally intended to sell Russian-made cordless electric lawnmowers. Their first shipment of lawnmowers was lost in shipping by the railway so they quickly adjusted to produce a telephony tone receiver product based on Cowpland's Ph. D. thesis.

Following the great success of the tone receiver, the founders extended their interest in the telecommunications industry. Early on they realized the possibilities of the then new technology of microprocessors to change how office telephone equipment was built. With this insight, they introduced the SX200 PBX to an astonishing success. The company grew exponentially at a rate of over 100% per year for several years. They reached the $100 million dollar annual revenue mark by 1981.

In the late 1970s, the company expanded into the semiconductor field with the acquisition of an ISO-CMOS foundry. This evolved into a semiconductor division that specialised in mixed signal and thick film hybrid devices.

The next major product attempted was a large digital PBX called the SX2000. This was an early attempt to integrate the voice and data functions of office systems . It proved to be an overwhelming technical task and was long delayed.

The SX2000 difficulties hindered the company greatly and triggered a many year experience of losses and stagnant revenues. As a result, Cowpland and Matthews lost control of the company. It was eventually sold to British Telecom. British Telecom left the equipment business a few years later to concentrate on its monopoly services. It sold Mitel to an investment company called Schroeder Ventures. Schroeder Ventures installed new management which revitalized the company which had become stagnant and risk averse under British Telecom management.

In 2001, Mitel was split into two parts. The PBX division and the company name were sold to co-founder Matthews, who took it private. The PBX division then began a new chapter, under the name Mitel Networks, by developing a family of PBXs based on Internet standards. This was a new attempt to create a converged voice-data system, which echoed the original effort with the SX2000. This project is in the area of VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol which is now of great interest in the industry.

The original company retained the semiconductor division. It was renamed Zarlink (Tsar of Links) to reflect its interest in networking.

The intellectual property of Mitel Networks was spun out in 2001 and placed in a company called Mitel Knowledge Corporation. This company evolved into MKC Networks which makes a family of SIP-based IP PBX systems. An additional split took place in 2002 when the manufacturing arm was spun off out of Mitel Networks to become a contract manufacturer called Breconridge. With these developments, the original Mitel Corporation has been split into the three companies: Zarlink (which though renamed is the original corporate entity), Mitel Networks, and Breconridge.

Mitel Networks reverted to calling itself Mitel in product branding and marketing materials in 2004.

Note that the separate company known first as "Mitel Knowledge" and now as MKC Networks was never actually a part of Mitel Networks but was rather a company producing a product intended for sale through Mitel Networks. Both companies were and are ultimately controlled by Terry Matthews.

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