IP Telephony Runs On Legacy Phones

CITEL's new gateway lets companies use legacy phone handsets with newer IP PBX technologies that provide telephony over a LAN.

For enterprises leery of making the switch to voice over IP, IP telephony vendor CITEL Technologies has a proposition: Begin making the move to IP voice without replacing the legacy handsets throughout a company.

CITEL this week introduced its CITELlink IP Handset Gateway that allows companies to use legacy telephone handsets along with newer IP PBX technologies. The gateway simultaneously communicates in proprietary PBX protocols to the handsets of multiple vendors and in IP to the IP PBX serving the telephony features on the LAN, officials said.

"Over the past two years, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in IP telephony applications but some of the biggest stumbling blocks for adoption were the lack of clear migration paths for customers utilizing legacy telephone systems as well as the daunting investment necessary to support these forklift implementations," said CITEL Chief Executive Officer Alan Law in a statement.

CITEL, of Seattle, estimates that there are more than 300 million legacy telephone handsets in the market. With such a large installed base, officials said, enterprises need an alternative to a complete replacement of those phones when they move toward the next-generation IP PBXes on the market. Customers also want to take advantage of newer features on IP PBXes such as computer-telephony integration (CTI) and unified messaging.

So far, CITEL has announced support for Nortel Networks Corp.s phones on its traditional Norstar telephone system. But CITEL is working on interoperability with the five vendors with a leading share of the installed base of legacy phones, a spokeswoman said. She said the company also plans to interoperate with multiple IP PBX vendors, the first of which will be with equipment from 3Com Corp.

The CITELlink IP Handset Gateway, which will ship this month, has 16 ports per device. Each device has a retail price of $2,000, and the device can be linked together to support larger capacities, officials said.