It’s hard to imagine what else could be done to improve Versatel Networks’ IQ1500L media gateway. When I looked at the previous version several months ago, it was already a very capable product. Now it’s been improved, expanded, and beefed up. Indeed, it’s better on almost all counts.
A media gateway provides the interface between the PBX and the outside world via a T1 or PRI (Primary Rate Interface) line — or even via an analogue phone line. Versatel expands this role by offering at the edge of the network on the media gateway a number of features, including conferencing and call routing. This lightens the load on the PBX, allowing it to handle more callers.
The biggest change to the gateway is immediately obvious: It has twice as many available slots for additional processor cards, line cards or other interfaces. Looking at the back of the box, you’ll also see that it now has two power supplies. They’re redundant and have automatic fail-over. Despite the added guts, the IQ1500L takes up exactly the same space as did its predecessor, giving you effectively twice the bang for the same three rack units.
But it’s what’s inside that counts. Versatel has also added a breadth of new optional features, including customizable ring-back functionality and the ability to switch between protocols on a phone using GSM and Wi-Fi.
The ability to switch seamlessly between GSM and Wi-Fi is significant: It helps companies control costs and provide coverage for wireless phones in areas where cell service might be blocked. Furthermore, the IQ1500L arbitrages between the GSM provider and the Wi-Fi site, and it handles the billing appropriately. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this feature due to the lack of commercial Wi-Fi/GSM handsets.
The customizable ring-back feature allows you to substitute the ringing sound a caller hears with an announcement, music, or some other sound. You can even set it so the caller hears the entire message before answering the phone. The only widely available implementation of this feature in the United States is from wireless carrier T-Mobile.
Also new is a personal conferencing feature called Call Pods, which allows anyone to easily set up a conference on an ad hoc ba+sis. The IQ1500L retains the rich features of its predecessor. It acts as a security gateway, for example, and hides the topology of the phone system from the outside world in much the same way a NAT firewall does on a data network.
Additionally, the product handles intelligent call routing and least-cost routing, which means it can determine when to send a call across the PSTN, either because it’s a local call or because there’s an outage in the IP network. In addition, it chooses the least-cost network consistent with preset call-quality requirements.
As did the earlier version, the IQ1500L handles call accounting and call restrictions, and it requires accounting charge codes if your business uses those. Similarly, the IQ1500L runs in a distributed environment and works with other gateways across an IP network or a T1/E1 line, for example.
The IQ1500L’s APIs and developer’s toolkit give this product potential that other media gateways lack. You can even develop your own telephony applications to fit your specific needs.
Thanks to its soft switch capabilities, as well as its high level of standards support and interoperability, the IQ1500L interacted with all the SIP PBX products we tested at the University of Hawaii’s Advanced Network Computing Laboratory.
Overall, the Versatel Networks IQ1500L is even more impressive than it was when I last looked at it — and it was good then. Unlike most carrier equipment, the IQ1500L is easy to manage, and its improved Web interface allows IT staff with only limited training to perform routine operations. The higher density, redundant power, and wide availability of gateway resident applications all provide important value.