March 14, 2001, 5:31 PM — IQ NetSolutions will soon announce a line of distributed voice/data convergence products that could give customers a glimpse of a future without PBXs or call servers.
The IQ MediaPhone and VoIP (voice-over-IP) Gateway are aimed at small and midsize businesses that want to meld voice and data onto a single network, but don't want to deal with or pay for scaled-down PBXs or IP call servers and phones.
Instead of a central PBX or call server that provides call control, the system is based on IQ MediaPhones, which are deployed on users' desks and can plug into an analog or digital phone with a plain RJ-11 wire.
The MediaPhone, a device smaller than an analog modem, is used to connect PCs and phones to a network over a single network line. The MediaPhones recognize each other over the network through an autodetection process, which makes each device aware of who is on the network. The actual routing of calls is done between MediaPhones instead of a central PBX or server similar to peer-to-peer network technology such as Napster.
Unlike other convergence products, the MediaPhone does not packetize voice into Ethernet frames to send along with data down the same pipe. Instead, it uses one of the two unused twisted pairs of copper wire in a standard Category 5 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet cable to send 64K bit/sec of voice traffic. The MediaPhone packetizes the voice traffic and sends it using a proprietary protocol.
MediaPhones are attached to an IQ VoIP Gateway, which understands this protocol and does the actual voice switching. For data switching, each user port on the VoIP Gateway connects to an Ethernet switch port via a dedicated Cat 5 patch cable. The gateway also has trunks for connecting to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and is compatible with H.323 and Session Initiation Protocol for communicating with other voice-over-IP gateways and IP PBXs over an IP net.
By putting voice on what is essentially a separate network from data traffic, voice-quality problems are eliminated, IQ NetSolutions executives say. But at the same time, both traffic types are traveling over the same wiring, eliminating the need for separate phone and data wiring.
Through a Web-based management application, network administrators can associate specific users' phone extensions and personal information with a specific MediaPhone for keeping a company phone directory. Because each user's data is tied to a MediaPhone, an individual can be relocated in an office without having to get a new phone extension.
"This system would be ideal for companies that don't have the capital or desire for a large centralized PBX or call server," says Tom Jenkins, a research director with the telecom consulting firm TeleChoice.