Package takes PBX out of VoIP loop

IQ NetSolutions Inc. 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 analogue or digital phone with a plain RJ-11 wire.

The MediaPhone, a device smaller than an analogue 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 10/100Mbps Ethernet cable to send 64Kbps 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.

He says the company will probably find customers in smaller niche markets at first and not corporations, because the MediaPhone system supports less than 100 users and because its technology is unconventional.

Whatever businesses adopt the technology will probably do so for its supposed ease of installation, Jenkins says.

“The distributed nature and autoconfiguration are huge pluses to the system,” Jenkins says.

A system including 14 IQ MediaPhones, a VoIP Gateway with 16 PSTN lines and a voice mail server costs US$7,130. For larger offices, a system with 40 MediaPhones, a 10-line VoIP Gateway and voice mail server costs US$17,740. The products will be available this month.

IQ NetSolutions is at

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