Patching up its broadband access portfolio, Cisco Systems will unveil an integrated access device today that offers small and midsized businesses a myriad of choices in selecting the voice and data services they receive from their providers.
This is Ciscos first integrated access device (IAD) built from scratch and designed with advanced services in mind. It marks the networking giants move into devices designed to straddle the technological uncertainty between traditional telephone systems and Internet devices.
An IAD is similar to a router or modem, in that it sends traffic from the customer to the Internet service provider (ISP) or local carrier. However, an IAD also converts voice traffic into Internet Protocol (IP) packets so it can be moved through the data network.
Although transmitting voice over an IP backbone is cheaper and allows for more services, some technology managers are skeptical about quality and reliability.
The IAD space is crowded. Efficient Networks, Netopia and Polycom lead the way, while traditional network equipment companies 3Com, Alcatel, Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks have their own incarnations. Voice-over-Digital Subscriber Line leaders Accelerated Networks, CopperCom, Jetstream Communications and TollBridge Technologies also provide IADs to complement their VoDSL portfolios.
The new Cisco device includes a standard telephone interface, as well as VoDSL and voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) interfaces. With this, service providers can sign up business customers, providing them with high-speed data while offering a choice of voice services.
"The real value in this product is that it provides seamless migration for service providers that want to maintain their existing [telephone] networks and transition to [IP] networks without going out to the customer site," said Mark Monday, a product marketing director at Cisco.
If a customer chooses standard telephone services, the service provider can upgrade the account later to VoDSL or VoIP using simple software configuration, saving the customer from making an either/or decision at the outset.
So far, BroadRiver Communications and Cbeyond Communications, both based in Atlanta, have been trialing the IAD to deliver VoIP to their customers.