Power Struggles: Controlling voice

By Susan Breidenbach, Network World |  Networking

Symbol provides its own handheld devices, which incorporate technology licensed from Palm and function as a phone, walkie-talkie and pager. At San Jose International Airport, American Airlines is trying them out for express check-in operations. Symbol works with voice gateway vendors to link its wireless voice/data LAN to a standard PBX.

The voice decision doesn’t have to be an either/or one. While the official rhetoric is quite polarized, both camps are actually hedging their bets. Cisco champions the IP PBX concept but is also a leading provider of voice gateways. Nortel is developing its own IP PBX line.

Meanwhile, peaceful coexistence may be the way to go. If you have a huge campus that has maxed out the capacity on an existing PBX, you can expand via an IP PBX and use the old and new platforms together.

Expert insight

Is it time to do LAN telephony at all, whether it be with a new type of PBX or a gateway into an old one? Paul Strauss, a senior analyst with market research firm IDC, offers some clarification and caution:
  • "LAN PBX" is a more accurate term than "IP PBX" because some of these switches use Ethernet natively.
  • If you think LAN PBXes look interesting now, you haven't seen anything yet: The real benefits will be delivered in 18 to 24 months.
  • Beware of PC-based soft phones. If the PC is down, it can take five minutes to boot. Instead, use IP phones -- the first new LAN node in 20 years.
  • Traditional PBXes deliver electrical power to the phone along with the voice signal, and current LAN telephony platforms do not. When the power is out, the phones are out.
  • If you are opening a new call center, do LAN telephony now. Elsewhere, regard it as an immature technology and proceed with caution -- especially if you have a multivendor PBX environment.
  • Get ready for LAN telephony with voice-enabling upgrades to LAN infrastructures: Implement prioritization schemes, add echo cancellation to routers and build out a fully switched network.
--Susan Breidenbach

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