With the current interest levels in Voice over IP (VoIP), it’s no wonder that a new office networking/telephony solution for SMBs has entered the fray. Demon’s Office Hub is a wireless VoIP-in-a box service with everything included to get small-business customers up and running quickly, relatively easily and cost-effectively.
The Demon Office Hub combines an excellent Billion wireless ADSL modem/router (BiPAC 7404VGP) with Demon Voice-over-Broadband VoIP solution (subscription CD-ROM included). The package is ideal for small and home offices that require advanced wireless connectivity (802.11g), robust network security features (including WPA-PSK and WPA-PSK2) and access to free or low-cost Internet phone calls. No special VoIP handsets are required, either - you can use a standard analogue phone.
At 210x148x36mm the BiPAC 7404VGP is a little larger and uglier than most routers, but this isn’t really an issue because it will likely live behind a desk somewhere. The extra size can also be explained by the substantial functionality. For starters it’s an ADSL2+ router, allowing speeds of up to 24Mbps (realistically you can expect around 16Mbps). You won’t be able to get ADSL2+ speeds with all Internet service providers though; most are still limited to their dependence on BT’s broadband network. The router even supports broadband standards like Annex M, which doubles ADSL uploading speeds to around 3.5Mbit/s.
Users can connect PCs and printers wirelessly, firewall security features are built-in, automatic ‘always on’ emergency phone access (if Internet unavailable) comes as standard and a choice of three Demon Voice over Broadband options are available. The BiPAC 7404VGP is equipped with analogue phone sockets that allow you to connect two handsets for simultaneous access to both a normal PSTN and VoIP service. In addition, the router has a built-in four-port Ethernet switch and power switch.
Demon’s choice of VoIP packages comprise the following: PAYG (Pay As You Go) - no monthly subscription, UK and international calls from 1p per minute; UK Unlimited - £9.99 (ex. VAT) per month, first 60 minutes talk time to UK-landlines FREE, international call rates from 1.1p per minute; UK & International Unlimited - £16.99 (ex. VAT) per month, first 60 minutes talk time to UK-landline and selected international destinations FREE. Calls are free to other Demon Voice over Broadband users, caller ID and call waiting are supported, and there’s automatic fallback to standard PSTN if the Internet is unavailable to help ensure ‘always on’ emergency access.
In our tests the BiPAC 7404VGP performed very well. And unlike other models that we’ve tested, the Wi-Fi signal remained strong even through several walls and across the other side of our small office. The quality of VoIP calls was similar to that experienced when using an external analogue telephony adapter device. The only criticism is that the Web-based configuration interface is a little clunky. It’s simple enough to set up a basic ADSL connection, but once you start getting into VoIP and security configuration you’ll probably have to refer to the handbook. If you run a business or have more advanced needs, a router such as Billion’s BiPAC 7404VGP is a solid choice. And if you want to adopt VoIP, Demon’s Office Hub is a good value package.