What's New in Technology for February 2006

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Technology: New VOIP-based Phone Equipment Brings Cutting-Edge Features to Businesses
If VoIP advocates have their way, the traditional analog phone is heading for the scrap heap. In its place, they predict we’ll be using a new generation of phones designed for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems and offering features way beyond the capacity of telephone-service only phones. If you are thinking about moving to a VoIP system, this new generation of phones may just sway you. Here’s what the excitement is all about.

SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol, a signaling protocol to establish sessions in an IP network. A session might consist of a simple, traditional two-way phone call, or it might comprise a teleconference, messaging, or a multi-media transmission. With its extra features, which can be customized to fit user needs, SIP phones are becoming the "must have" product for businesses that make use of a VoIP system. Fans of the new technology note the following advantages:
  • SIP is interoperable, and works with existing IP systems. This means SIP users are not tied to one vendor or provider. Business owners can shop around to get the best SIP-based IP-PBX from one vendor and - depending upon the features they need and their budget requirements - buy their SIP phones from another. This also means that small business owners can add SIP-phones and features as their business grows - good news for business owners that like flexibility and the ability to build on their existing IP technology.

  • SIP-based phones offer a wide variety of options. The unified communications functions available include: Ethernet ports, speakerphones, headset ports, call encryption (for businesses where security and confidentiality are crucial), voice calls, messaging and teleconferencing.

  • There are several manufacturers of SIP-phones, which means there’s a good selection of products at various price points and competitive prices. Business owners can shop around based on features and voice quality, as well as overall price. Prices range from around $110 for a Grandstream Networks GXP-2000 to around $300 for models from Cisco and Siemens. Most manufacturers offer comparable models with similar functions. The chief differences are in the amount of customization offered and subjective user preferences.
When choosing your SIP phones, bear in mind that voice quality can sometimes still be an issue. You also need to determine whether you prefer to hit buttons or to select features from a display menu. Make sure the phone you select offers a good buffer against "stuttering." Almost all the major telecommunications companies, including Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, and Nortel offer SIP phones. Some IP phone manufacturers are also expected to provide customers with the option of SIP upgrades.


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