Networks Telecom: Voice over IP comes in by stealth

Voice on data is quietly moving into the mainstream. A sign: new products are deliberately presented as dull but useful, rather than leading edge

Voice over IP (VoIP) is no longer an exciting term. Most users have tired of the early, flaky implementations, which required proprietary LAN telephones, and decided to leave it to the leading-edge users. The Networks Telecom conference in Birmingham this week is the right time, then, for voice/data products which are designed to be simple and invisible. TechLand Group is distributing an intelligent VoIP switch which sits between an analogue PBX and the IP network. The Quintum Tenor switch works with any PBX and includes "mid-call failover", meaning that if a VoIP call looks like going out of the limits of tolerance, it will set up a conventional phone call in the background and hand over to it without the user noticing. The eight-port version costs £3,300 and the four-port version costs £1,072. "The migration to full VoIP, on the LAN as well, is easy," said Martin Sanderson, sales executive. "You just add Ethernet phones which you can use in combination." Eventually, the traditional PBX can be switched off, he said. The product also handles NAT (network address translation) and Radius (remote access). Another company quietly getting on with VoIP is TeleWare, a company that provides "single number" systems for enterprises that are intended to make sure that staff can be reached on a single phone number, regardless of where they are. For TeleWare, VoIP is just a tool to make its products more cost-effective. TeleWare has been quietly using IP to route calls on for some years; at Networks Telecom, it launched Intelligent Exchange. In common with the Quintum products, this is a bridge between the analogue PBX and the IP network. The main new feature is an H.450 Gatekeeper, and session initialisation protocol (SIP) which between them allow direct connection to handsets. "The big players have been protecting their market share by including a proprietary interface," said Colin Neal of TeleWare. In his view, standards like SIP and H.450 are a major contribution to quietly giving VoIP its final entry into the enterprise.


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