Aastras VOIP System Thinks Small

Aastra's VentureIP dials up hassle-free VOIP to small businesses and branch offices.

Aastra Technologies Ltd.s VentureIP peer-to-peer telephony system provides hassle-free voice-over-IP telephony for very small businesses or branch offices with simple networks, and it could also prove to be a useful addition for traveling demonstrations or trade-show booths.

Unlike other VOIP systems targeted at smaller networks, the VentureIP system does not use a central IP PBX. Instead, VentureIP relies on Nimcat Networks Inc.s NimX P2P software to perform device discovery, synchronization and configuration while using standards-based SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) for call control. This combination enables each phone to automatically join the telephony network and set up, maintain and end calls without requiring a central server.

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In eWEEK Labs tests, we found VentureIPs call forwarding, call conferencing, intercom paging, music on hold—with calls to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) only—and voice mail worked well, and the call quality was adequate, using the G.729a codec for compression. However, because VentureIP call payloads are automatically encrypted, we could not use our VOIP management and assessment tools to accurately measure call quality.

We tested VentureIP running Aastra software load 2.9.0, which started shipping this month. Our testbed included three VentureIP 480i IP phones, priced at $379 each, and one VentureIP Gateway, priced at $289.

Installing the VentureIP system was a no-brainer, provided all devices are connected to the same subnet. The NimX software discovers and synchronizes phones and gateway devices using multicast traffic. However, multicast traffic wont cross a routed network by default. Aastra officials said they expect VentureIP to support unicast traffic in the next major revision to better facilitate multisubnet deployments.

The VentureIP 480i phone features a large screen, a speakerphone, intercom paging and a message-waiting light. The 480i also supports 802.3af-compliant POE (power over Ethernet), and it features an additional data port to connect a computer to the network without requiring additional network drops.

Software load 2.9.0 offers Web-based administration of many features. From the Web console embedded in each phone, we could configure user settings, such as language and e-mail addresses, or administrator settings, such as paging zones, time and date, and SMTP server settings. However, IP address changes must still be performed from the keypad.

Each phone stores up to 20 minutes of voice mail in flash memory. Users can dial in to their phones from other Aastra phones or from the PSTN to retrieve messages.

If a phone loses power or network connectivity, the Nimcat peer technology triggers other phones throughout the network to temporarily offer voice mail service for the missing phone.

Each VentureIP Gateway supports as many as four analog FXO (Foreign Exchange Office) trunks to the PSTN. Companies needing additional trunks can add more gateways to the network as necessary. The VentureIP system supports only analog trunks, so companies looking to leverage a digital line for the trunks will need to look elsewhere.

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