Ongoing convergence of circuit-switched, wireless and packet-switched networks is a market reality which is fuelling innovation and growth in many new services and applications.
Successfully deployed voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) is providing corporations with voice quality and levels
of service comparable to traditional circuit-switched telephone networks at a lower cost.
VoIP is helping corporate users redefine the way they communicate, which is why I took a look at one solution — Multi-Tech’s MultiVOIP (MVP) gateway.
Voice over IP is also enabling applications and services such as conferencing, number portability, Web-based communications, call redirection, unified messaging and collaborative functions. These can all be achieved with one help desk, one network management app and one infrastructure for voice, fax and data.
Running VoIP enhances the value of LAN and expensive WAN connections by utilizing existing links to their fullest potential.
Using low bit rate codecs (standards-based voice compression techniques), you can squeeze in more voice traffic between sites than was previously possible with traditional voice circuits, allowing several simultaneous conversations over the same bandwidth that would otherwise carry only one.
Users in remote offices can do without a resident private branch exchange (PBX) — extensions from the head office PBX can be extended to remote office sites using VoIP gateways. Road warriors equipped with soft phones and Internet access can make VoIP calls to their head offices.
Multi-Tech is a well-known player in the burgeoning VoIP gateway market. Its MultiVOIP gateway family provides immense potential for enterprises, small offices and home offices to take full advantage of their existing DSL, wireless and broadband data connections. By directly connecting phones, fax machines or PBXs they can transmit real-time voice and fax over the IP network. Its VoIP gateway product portfolio supports analogue and digital interfaces and goes from one up to sixty ports.
Voice is a mission-critical business application and each time users pick up their phones they need to hear the dial tone. This can ensured by using Multi-Tech’s automatic public switched telephone network (PSTN) fail-over, so if the IP network goes down the gateways can be programmed to divert calls to the PSTN.
The units also supports differentiated services, a quality of service protocol that allows your voice and fax traffic get priority on low-speed lines.
One of the more interesting features of the gateway out of the box is that it supports multiple programmable telephony interfaces such as foreign exchange station (FXS), foreign exchange office (FXO) and ear and mouth (E&M) trunks for each port.
These can accommodate changing end user communication interface needs. The units can also auto-detect an incoming fax or voice call. Voice activity detection features ensure that your WAN bandwidth is consumed only when someone is speaking.
I tested Multi-Tech’s MVP 210 an analogue two-port FXS, FXO, E&M, H.323 and session initiated protocol (SIP)-based VoIP gateway.
Before you begin testing MVP 210, it is important to keep information such as IP network parameters (IP addresses, IP masks and gateways) and telephone information for the units at the ready.
Configuration and system management was done locally with the MultiVOIP configuration software.
Using the vendor-supplied serial cable, I connected to the MVP 210 through the PC com port. I clicked on the connection tab and the software reported “”MultiVOIP found.”” Under configuration, I set the unit’s IP address and other network parameters. After IP address assignment is done locally, other configurations can be done remotely using the MultiVOIP Web browser GUI.
I then moved on to the voice and fax settings for a particular channel. Here you get to enable things such as silence compression.
I left other parameters at default values to get the system up and running quickly. Under statistics you can see the logs, IP statistics and link management.
In the interface for a channel you find a cool feature — that is, the interface can be programmed as either FXS, FXO or E&M ports. Under logs, I set the syslog server settings for logging MVP 210 events on to a third-party syslog client program.
If you need to send VoIP gateway call traffic details such as phone call log records via e-mail, make sure you set the SMTP parameters.
I spent some time in the phone book section to add outbound and inbound phone book entries.
This is the place where you specify how calls will be routed, set up phone books, determine who you can call and the sequences that must be used to complete calls.
The MVP 210 gateway seamlessly connected the telephone network to the IP network.
Users don’t see what’s happening — they just pick up the phone and dial the required phone or fax numbers. Installation was easy, as you plug the appliance into your current network and voice infrastructure of routers, switches, analogue phones, fax machines and PBX.
It was simple to administer and set up. IT administrators can manage the MVP 210 unit with ease. You can add new sites without overhauling your network. The accompanying software for configuration and management offers granular administration allowing the information technology staff selection of the required parameters.
I was impressed with the voice quality. My testing revealed that the MVP 210 was easy to install, configure and maintain.
As my tests also focused on interoperability I used a SIP soft phone for SIP protocol support and an H.323-based wireless phone over a wireless access point to test for H.323 protocol support.
The bottom line: MVP 210’s standards-based support, affordable price tag and ease of use makes it an excellent choice for quickly deploying a VoIP solution.
The technology is there, the products are proven but assessing your network readiness for VoIP will mean the difference between success and failure. For the Multi-Tech appliance I recommend support for SFTP, HTTPS and local management via IP in addition to the other protocols already supported.
One of the simplest approaches organizations can take in order to avoid expensive calling plans is using VoIP gateways as they offer a quick return on investment by taking advantage of the savings derived from a converged voice, fax and data network.