top of page

The History of Mitel®

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mitel Networks is a telecommunications company providing unified communications solutions for business. The company previously produced TDM PBX systems and applications but after a change in ownership in 2001 now focuses almost entirely on Voice-over-IP (VoIP) products.

Mitel is headquartered in OttawaCanada, with offices, partners and resellers worldwide.

Corporate History



Michael Cowpland and Terry Matthews founded Mitel in 1972 (officially on June 8, 1972). Conventionally, its name is regarded as a combination of the founders’ first names and their first product - MIke and Terry's Lawnmowers. Cowpland is quoted as stating that it stands for Mike and Terry's Electronics, whereas Matthews confirmed the lawnmower acronym during an interview on BBC Radio 4's "The Bottom Line" in May 2011.[citation needed]  The pair formed the corporation with the blessing of their employer, Bell Northern Research, based on the original premise it stood for "MIke and Terry's Lawnmowers" and in order to protect their intellectual property rights of tone to pulse converter design from their employer who otherwise would have legal ownership rights. Their first shipment of three lawn mowers was lost in shipping, so they quickly adjusted to produce a telephony tone receiver product (a tone-to-pulse converter for central office use based on Cowpland's Ph.D. thesis). Cowpland has also stated that the lawnmowers were not suited to Canadian lawns.[citation needed]

Following the success of the tone receiver, the founders extended their interest in the telecommunications industry. Early on the pair realized the significance of the then new microprocessor and software technology[1] to the design of telecom switches. In 1975, they introduced the SX200 PBX.[2] The company grew at a rate of over 100% per year for several years. They reached the $100 million annual revenue mark by 1981.[3]

In 1976, the company expanded into the semiconductor field with the acquisition of Siltex, a bankrupt ISO-CMOS foundry in Bromont, Quebec. This evolved into a semiconductor division that specialized in mixed signal and thick film hybrid devices.

The next major product was a large digital PBX called the SX2000. This was an early attempt to integrate the voice and data functions of office systems. It was conceived as moving beyond the PBX to become an Office Controller which would handle both voice and data applications within an organization.

In 1985, due to a financial crisis in the company, the board of directors created enough new shares to sell a controlling interest (51%) to British Telecom. British Telecom left the equipment business a few years later and sold its controlling interest in Mitel to an investment company called Schroder Ventures. Schroeder Ventures installed new management which revitalized the company.[citation needed]

In the meantime, Mitel continued to diversify its product line, introducing the successful SUPERSET line of phone terminals, the GX5000 Central Office, and the SMART-1 call controller, among others. Additionally Mitel developed and marketed a line of telecom-focussed semiconductor products.


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. Matthews purchased 90% of the PBX division for $300 million Canadian with the original company retaining 10%.[citation needed] The PBX division then began a new chapter, under the name Mitel Networks, by developing a family of PBXs based on Internet standards for Voice over IP (VoIP).

The original company retained the semiconductor division. It was renamed Zarlink (Tsar of Links) Semiconductor 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.[citation needed] 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 was split into three companies: Zarlink (which though renamed is the original corporate entity), Mitel Networks, and BreconRidge.[4]


On May 10, 2006, the new company announced its intention to launch an Initial public offering (IPO). No detailed information was released but the press indicated that the company hoped to raise $150 million.[5]

In April 2007, Mitel announced an agreement with Inter-Tel to purchase that company. This purchase would amount to a merger of equals with the merged company being twice the size of the original Mitel. This acquisition was completed in August 2007. Management had announced that the companies will carry on under the name Mitel. As a result of the merger, Mitel withdrew from the IPO registration process.[6]

Mitel Networks reverted to calling itself Mitel in product branding and marketing materials in 2004.[citation needed]

The separate company, known first as "Mitel Knowledge" and now as MKC Networks, was not a part of Mitel Networks, but was rather a company producing a product intended for sale through Mitel Networks.[citation needed] Both companies were and are ultimately controlled by Terry Matthews.

On April 22, 2010, Mitel became a public company,[7] listed on Nasdaq with the symbol MITL, and its initial offering stood at $14 per share.[8] Within a year, the stock price had dropped to $5.50[9] and was described by CNBC's Jim Cramer as one of the worst IPOs of the year.[10] Cramer blamed excessively optimistic pricing, excessive debt and the fear that company insiders would sell, dropping the stock value.[10]

During the company's Q1 conference call, Don Smith (CEO) announced his retirement from the company once the board of directors is able to find a suitable replacement. Smith said he would remain on the board after retirement.[11]



In June 2013, Mitel announced the completion of acquisition of one of its key suppliers, prairieFyre Software Inc., a privately held global provider of contact center, business analytics, and workforce optimization software and services. The net cash cost to Mitel for the acquisition of prairieFyre is approximately $20 million. prairieFyre is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that has supplied Mitel with its existing contact center solution.[12]

In November 2013, Mitel announced the purchase of Aastra Technologies.[13]

On March 4, 2014, Mitel announced the acquisition of contact center supplier OAISYS, a leading developer of integrated call recording and quality management solutions.

In March 2015, Mitel announced to buy Mavenir Systems for $560 million.[14]

In April 2016, Mitel announced its intention to buy Polycom for $1.96 billion.[15] The deal was intended to give existing Polycom shareholders both cash and new Mitel shares for their holdings and result in Polycom shareholders owning 60% of the combined company. The acquisition was ended in favour of a merger with Siris Capital instead,[16] forcing Polycom pay a $60 million USD fee to Mitel for cancelling the deal.[17]

In July 2017, Mitel announced they had reached a deal to buy ShoreTel for $430 million, increasing the size of the company to 4,200 employees.[18]


On March 1, 2013, Mitel announced it has completed the sale of its DataNet CommSource business unit ("DataNet") in Sioux Falls to EarthBend, LLC.[19] In December 2016 the company announced that it will sell its mobility unit for $385 million to Xura and that will focus its business on Unified Communications.[20]


Product Lineup[22]

  • MiCollab: tap-to-connect communications and collaboration tools for smartphones

  • Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) calling services

  • MiCloud: multi-tenant, multi-instance cloud platforms

  • MiContact Center: customer service platform for contact centers which includes ability to connect mobile enterprises with the mobile consumer

  • Mobile capabilities for hospitality sector and customers

  • Open Integration Gateway: open, standards-based “Web Services” platform that enables application development and integration with Mitel products



  2. "About Us - Overview - History". Wesley Clover.

  3. Mitel Annual Report 1982

  4. OBJ Staff (2001). "Mitel spins off division into BreconRidge/". Ottawa Business Journal. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved November 20, 2006.

  5. Catherine McLean (2006). "Mitel files for IPO, eyes expansion plan/". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved November 20, 2006.

  6. "Mitel To Acquire Inter-Tel". April 27, 2007.

  7. "Mitel makes second try at IPO". The Globe and Mail. April 22, 2010.

  8. "Mitel Becomes a Public Company – Again". April 22, 2010.

  9. Johnathan Chen (July 1, 2011). "J.P. Morgan Lowering Price Target On Mitel Networks". Benzinga. Retrieved February 21,2012.

  10. Jim Cramer (June 23, 2010). "A How-To Guide for a Successful GM IPO". CNBC. Retrieved February 21, 2012.

  11. "Mitel CEO Don Smith to leave post". September 3, 2010. Retrieved July 21, 2015.

  12. "Mitel Acquires Contact Center Supplier prairiefyre" (Press release). June 17, 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013.

  13. "Mitel Networks buys Aastra Technologies in friendly takeover deal to create bigger high-tech player" (Press release). November 11, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2013.

  14. "Canada's Mitel Networks to buy Mavenir Systems for $560 mln" (Press release). March 2, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2015.

  15. "Mitel announces definitive agreement to acquire Polycom". Retrieved April 15, 2016.

  16. "Polycom Agrees to End Mitel Merger Agreement and Approves New Merger Agreement With Siris Capital". Retrieved November 17, 2016.

  17. "Mitel's Breakup With Polycom Has Major Silver Lining". Retrieved July 8, 2016.


  19. "Mitel Sells DataNet CommSource Business Unit to EarthBend". Nasdaq GlobeNewswire. March 1, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2017.

  20. Lunden, Ingrid (December 19, 2016). "Xura buys Mitel Mobility for $385M and Ranzure to double down on 5G". TechCrunch. Retrieved January 6, 2017.

  21. "Mitel targets iPhone repairer trademark". ZDNet. December 2, 2011.

  22. "Mitel Announces Mobile Enterprise Portfolio for Today's Mobile-First World". Yahoo Finance. Archived from the original on January 6, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2015.

In 2011 Mitel launched litigation against at least two Australian businesses for infringing on Mitel's trademark and the businesses for engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct under Australian consumer law. The first case against Melbourne telecommunications company Mytel was resolved, while the second case brought against a chain of mobile phone accessory and repair stores under the MyTel and HappyTel name was still waiting to be heard.[21]

bottom of page