’Tis the season Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

Since this issue comes out in the throes of the holiday buying season, we thought you would be interested in some of the latest “toys” you might want to consider purchasing for your Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone system.

“VoIP is advancing rapidly, and since new equipment is constantly coming out, I get to play with many of these new items to determine how they perform and how they might be used,” says Brian Curry, technical coordinator at Curry IP Solutions.

Smart Business asked Curry about some of the latest products and how they might make good business sense.

What is your favorite new toy for use in the office?

For a person who needs to move around the office or warehouse, I like the new 480i CT Cordless Handset from Aastra. It provides warehouse coverage up to 300,000 square feet. It has a vibration alerter and is headset-compatible. Features include four call-appearance lines, plus up to five additional lines using softkeys, personal directory, call forward, call transfer, call waiting, caller and calling line information, caller’s log, conference calling, hold and a redial list — all in a relatively compact, lightweight, handheld unit. This can be very useful if you need to be on the move and still be accessible by telephone.

What is your favorite new toy for use outside the office?

My overall favorite product is the first second-generation WiFi VoIP phone from UTStarcom. It is the model F3000. With the first-generation phones, you would need to manually set up the phone if you moved from one WiFi or Hot Spot to another. This phone allows you to move freely between the various WiFi networks in your area, and the switching is automatic and usually seamless. This is going to become even more important as the technology continues to improve with the development of more Hot Spots.

With increased availability of WiFi, the convergence of your data and voice will be a natural and seamless transition.

Security with this new technology is a great consideration. This phone has increased security with a more secure public-key encryption system. This assures that only authorized network users can access your service. It’s not like traditional phone service where anyone can access the gray box placed openly on the rear of your building or a common basement.

Cosmetically, this phone has some other enhancements, including a large, color LCD screen and a clamshell similar to current mobile/cellular/GSM phones. This phone will allow you to take calls wherever WiFi is available. You can move freely about, take and make calls, and the person on the other end doesn’t know if you are in your office, car — or even at the beach.

This is a significant advantage if you do a lot of traveling, especially if you travel internationally. Just as you are able to send e-mails anywhere in the world where there is Internet access, the same is true now of VoIP. Your WiFi phone accesses the same Internet anywhere in the world. The cost of a call from Italy is treated the same as a call made within the U.S. and not as an international call.

What other toys do you like?

Most people who are into tech-type toys already have their Bluetooth headsets, cell phones and notebook computers. Keeping with the development of VoIP, I would suggest downloading a free Softphone, XLite from Xten.com, onto your notebook.

A Softphone is a software program for making telephone calls over the Internet using a computer. It often is designed as an image of a phone that appears on your computer monitor and has the same characteristics of a traditional telephone.

Using your Bluetooth headset with your Bluetooth-enabled computer, you will have the tools to begin using a VoIP service with little to no investment. Of course, you will need to set up an account with a VoIP service provider if you want to place and receive calls over the Public Switched Telephone Network. And remember, the quality of the service is affected by the quality of the broadband connection.

As a general rule of thumb, a phone call with VoIP may require 64Kbs of bandwidth for a quality conversation. So if you download MP3s for your iPod, you probably should schedule the downloads for that long winter nap.

Merry Christmas!

BRIAN CURRY is technical coordinator for Curry IP Solutions. Reach him at (412) 307-3600, ext. 9001, or bcurry@curryip.com.