Outside the Box

Peer-to-peer networking for corporate telephone systems

iQ NetSolutions this week plans to roll out ser-vice that brings the properties of peer-to-peer networking to corporate telephony.

Imagine, if you will, a corporate telephone system with no private branch exchange or central switch. Technologically, it seems as plausible as Napster did before it rode peer-to-peer networking technology to worldwide notoriety. But by distributing little boxes, each about the size of an audiocassette, and connecting them to the local area network (LAN), iQ NetSolutions says enterprises can get the benefits of Internet Protocol (IP) telephony without purchasing a big PBX or figuring out how to operate it.

"There really isnt anything that is as distributed as the iQ NetSolutions system," says TeleChoice analyst Tom Jenkins. "We have the IP Centrex model and IP PBXs, and there will be IP phones that are application-enabled, but this is a very unique and new architecture in the industry."

To make it work, users plug their analog telephones into the iQ MediaPhone using a standard interface and into their PCs using an Ethernet interface. Then they can choose, update and modify the voice services they use over the phone. The devices automatically discover each other across the network, and then automatically configure.

The information technology manager can be set up as the administrator and, using a graphical interface screen on a Web site, can choose extension numbers and directory services. Then, each client on the network uses the Web to configure his or her individual profile and voice services.

Phone calls can go from the LAN to the outside world via high-speed Internet connection or the standard public switched telephone network. Using virtual private networking technologies, corporations can connect users from numerous branch offices into one wide area network telephony community. The system can scale from two to 256 users and costs $27,000 for 60 stations.

In terms of bandwidth allocation, the iQ MediaPhone only uses that portion of the bandwidth not otherwise engaged in, say, the transmission of data. Communications providers can operate and manage the system remotely without ever even having to visit the customers premises.

Leading next-gen, or IP PBX vendors, which this new product looks to compete with, include telecom giants such as 3Com, Cisco Systems and Siemens, as well as many smaller companies focusing squarely on this space.