Better IP Voice

By Ellen Muraskin  |  Posted 2004-07-08 Print this article Print

Wideband audio is something VOIP makes possible, because given the bandwidth, LAN-based telephony can sample, encode and transmit voice at a wider range of frequencies than that permitted by the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), whose limits were set by the signal characteristics of copper wiring. Regular phone calls only pass along audio that fits inside the 300 to 4000 Hz range. Thats why, without context, you cannot tell an "s" from an "f" sound; the distinguishing frequencies are clipped off. Wideband audio can pass along more of the spectrum. This is a feature that reduces ear fatigue over long conference calls, says PR Manager Suzanne Crow of Siemens Enterprise Networks, which also incorporates the technology. ShoreTels VOIP systems boast wideband audio, too.
Of course, the IP Touch phone preserves all of the telephony features enterprise users have come to expect: speakerphone, headset port, soft keys, speed dial—here improved with screen-presented LDAP integration—and so on. The device sits at an accommodating tilt, so that it doesnt take up much more desk space than the phones weve known.
The phone will work with Alcatels OmniPCX Enterprise IP PBX and also with its small-office, built-in-router version, the OmniPCX Office. List price for the high-end phone? Craig Hand, demoing the booth at Supercomm, says $695. Hes tasked with driving OmniPCX Office adoption in the United States and freely admits that the price will come down. The phones themselves could not properly exploit what IP telephony has to offer–or justify their prices—if they were not accompanied by easy PC GUIs. So, PBX vendors have released these newly aerodynamic IP phones alongside browser-based clients and soft phones, often designed (at great cost, they add) by behavioral scientists to be attractive and friendly. Open-system PBXes trailblazed Web phone control. Click here to read more. To some degree, these mimic the Web-accessible GUIs of the consumer and SMB services, allowing for click-to-hear voice mail, click-to-dial directories and call logs, black lists, white lists and fancy call routing. But installed among enterprise applications, these telephony apps can do more. They can be populated with company dialing directories using LDAP, and can integrate with Exchange or Lotus calendars and contact lists. So that, for example, the system knows that whenever your calendar says youre out, all calls–or all calls from a specified VIP group–should automatically forward to your cell phone. They can integrate presence, so that you know which of your colleagues are on the phone, which video-enabled, which in conference. They can screen pop Outlook contact records, matched by incoming caller ID. Alcatels effort on this score is called its OmniTouch Unified Communications Suite. Its browser-based, will work with the TDM phone sets still hanging off the PBX, and comes in four distinct modules to keep the visual presentation as uncluttered as possible. Well try to look at the software side of the equation soon. Check out eWEEK.coms VOIP & Telephony Center at for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.

Ellen Muraskin is editor of's VOIP & Telephony Center. She has worked on the editorial staff at Computer Telephony, since renamed Communications Convergence, including three years as executive editor. Muraskin's work has also appeared in Popular Science magazine and other publications.

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