Business voip hardware Weekend

No such thing as a SIP sausage

How now brown cow

It’s that Thursday afternoon lethargic feeling where really you want it to be 5pm on Friday so that you can legitimately be somewhere else. ie the pub.

There is probably lots going on but it’s all passing me by. The Summer test cricket has started. We got off to a terrible start but are recovering some ground. I glance at it occasionally on my screen.

Here in the office it’s getting pretty quiet. My office is at the University of Lincoln campus. The little darlings students are either all in an examination room somewhere or have already gone home to mummy and daddy. Pile of dirty washing no doubt.

This isn’t the time of year to throttle back though. Lots of business still to be done before the summer entertainment season starts followed by the holidays. I am still waiting for my invitations to Wimbledon, Lords etc etc. I’m sure they will come. Probably in the post. I also fancy a bit of sailing and maybe a golf day or two. Nothing too onerous. A stroll round a links course somewhere.

It’s already the BBQ season. I noted someone on Facebook earlier this week informing a group that they were getting their deck ready to put out the barbecue. Huh. Ours has been out for at least a month! My brother in law leaves his out all winter and cooks his roasts on it. This year I’m going to buy a spit.

The weather outside is gorgeous. Must be because it’s exam time. I’ve restarted walking to work. I used to walk to work every day but during the depths of winter I weakened and bought an annual car parking season ticket. Only £72. Barg. It was not the right thing to do as since then I’ve driven more than I’ve walked. I have a hill called Steep Hill between the office and my house. In the morning I walk down the hill but that return journey is a killer.

I mostly walk to work on a Friday anyway which allows flexibility in decision making re whether to stop off for a beer or not. Which is where we came in isn’t it?

Before I go, and to legitimise this post, I’ve just received a snom SIP DECT phone (mouthful that!).  I’ll be getting it up and running and reporting on it in due course, once I figure out how to do it. I need a PoE adapter thingy as it hasn’t got a separate power supply. My Chromebook doesn’t have an Ethernet socket and runs off a separate WiFi subnet. Don’t worry I’ll sort it out.

I used to have loads of SIP phones. Used to test them. There was a time where there were only a handful of handset makes. Then the flood gates opened. We in the industry thought SIP had finally arrived. Really took years more for real SIP services to become available and for the tech to become mainstream. It’s there now.

So kids. Thassit for now. This is more of a weekend post than a businessy one but it’s all yer getting this afternoon. I have that Thursday afternoon lethargic feeling…

PS don’t ask me where I got the post title from – totally random. snom dect phone.

Business voip voip hardware

Practical IP Phone Design

ip phone hot-desking ip phone roi ip phone interoperability ip phone security lesley hansen on designing an ip phonePractical Applications for Your IP Handsets

In the last of her articles on IP handset design Snom Marketing Manager Lesley Hansen talks about practical applications including ip phone hot desking.

IP phones are unique in that they were built to support IP first and telephony second. When businesses embrace the richer world of unified communications the benefits of IP phones become evident. With IP phones business users can use converged services which incorporate voice into data and video applications.  Advanced IP phones are really multimedia endpoints that bring these capabilities together with a single interface. IP phones interface with IP Telephony servers or IP PBXs and they can deliver features to your phone that are not available with more traditional office phones. Business productivity features such as Auto Attendants, Music on Hold and Automated Personal Attendant services, but also user productivity features such as caller id, voicemail, voice to email, transfer announcements and speed dial.

Beyond the elegant feature list on an IP phone there are certain practical applications that the handset needs to be designed to accommodate in order for the business to get the most from their IP handsets.

Hot Desking

In IP Telephony hot-desking can be best described as when your extension is whatever phone you’re logged onto. Hot desking means that a business can make efficient use of office space allowing workers to use available desk space rather than deploying one desk per user and having empty unused desk spaces when employees who spend time in other offices or at customer sites are not in their local office. Hot desking in an office environment can save on lighting, heating, and power and space costs and promote improved interaction between employees.  In a call centre where a desk space may be expensive because of the tailored equipment, Hot desking is an excellent way of using the resources available to best effect.

IP phone hot desking does not only save money for the business it also make the individual more productive. Any small business with multiple locations will see a great benefit in hot desking.  A person may have a number of offices and travel and work out of each of them, depending on the day of the week or week of the year.  With hot desking, they’re always connected to their voice mail, and easily accessible via their extension number.  They have all the features and functions that they are used to having on their IP phone.

Hot desking also benefits the end customer, the employee can log in on any phone in any office and be fully connected.  No more problems for the end customer searching and guessing to find out what office their contact is working out of today.

When designing an IP phone for hot desking it needs to accommodate multiple IDs simultaneously and to be able to download user profiles from the switch when a new user logs on.

Home Working

Home working is the scenario where you live and work in the same place and brings new challenges to the design of IP Telephony handsets. Enabling home working allows for a reduction in commuting charges and mobile bills. As calls on your private IP network are free you can also make savings on call costs. Home working requires an IP phone to be easy to setup and reliable to use. There is no technical resource in most homes and to keep costs down and productivity up the IP phone needs to be a plug and play device. Once a phone is plugged in needs to be fully operational with the same features and functionality as the user has when in the office. The principle behind home working is that the user is allocated a single IP extension on the IP Switch which is retained no matter whether working on a home extension or logged in to an office extension.

Moves, Adds and Changes

Moves, adds and changes (MAC) is the general term for the routine work performed on items such as Telephony handsets in an enterprise, including installations, relocations and upgrades. MACs can cost a business valuable time and can involve reconfiguration, physical relocation and testing and setup. Using an IP phone the costs for MACs can effectively be eliminated since users can log themselves onto any handset and so effectively manage the move or change themselves. Costs savings from user empowerment through IP in moves such as office relocation or re-organisations, staff rotation and data centres moves are considerable. It is important when selecting an IP phone to ensure it has been designed to easily accommodates remote deployment and remote management facilitating low cost moves, adds and changes within the business.

Support for Multiple Profiles

It is not uncommon for a business to employ people who work representing more than one role or business venture. In these situations the IP phone can be designed to allow the user to have multiple identities so that they can have calls coming in to multiple incoming numbers over multiple lines and can recognise which line the call is coming in on and answer the calls appropriately for the businesses. When making calls in this type of situation it is also important that the outgoing caller id is appropriate to the business being represented. The ability to support multiple identities is a simple feature of IP phones but one that is easiest to use when designed into the handset.

Speaker or Conference Phone

Clear communications is critical if business calls or meetings are to be productive. The audio quality achieved through a speaker-phone or a specially designed conference phone is different, they are optimised differently to handle multiple voices and background noises. Therefore understanding the use of a phone is an important consideration in phone design and selecting a phone that is optimised to the task being performed is key to experiencing good voice quality. With a High Definition voice codec in use by all conference participants, combined with decent quality microphones and speakers, you will experience much clearer audio.

This post on practical ip phone applications is the 8th and last in our series on how to design an ip phone. Other posts in the series are linked to below:

How to design an ip phone
How to design an ip phone for voice quality
IP phone design for it departments
IP Phone Security
IP Phone Interoperability
IP phone ROI
IP Phone aesthetics

Check out all our VoIP posts here.

Business voip voip hardware

IP Phone Aesthetics

ip phone roi ip phone interoperability ip phone security lesley hansen on designing an ip phoneDesigning IP Phones for Beauty and Practicality – IP phone aesthetics

In the 7th of 8 posts on how to design an IP phone Snom Marketing Manager Lesley Hansen talks ip phone aesthetics.

Design is at the service of the user and the product functionality. In order to reach a good design, we must give priority to decisions that are taken during the products development. A design that is artistically pleasing is one of the criteria that is considered by Snom when we design any new handset or conference phone.

All telephone handsets have at their base the model used by Siemens in their first handsets for traditional telephony 30 years ago. Siemens invested in the development of the technology from day one. They set great store by ergonomics, intent on making the telephone more convenient. They started with the introduction of the hand receiver, followed later on by the scoop-shaped receiver which typified the design for many years.  This investment in design and interest in the ergonomics and practicalities of handset manufacturer is an approach emulated by Snom Technology to this current day.

The handset designer is not working with a blank sheet of paper on which to fashion their creations.  Each new handset has a specification which details the features and functionality that are required in the handset. These features and functions dictate the chipset to be used and the memory and circuit board content that has to be incorporated into the unit.  The designer typically works with a telephone engineer who has an awareness of the audio rules to achieve best quality audio. For example every speaker needs a chamber and the chamber design can fundamentally affect the voice quality.

IP phone aesthetic design is a trade-off between artistic and audio quality. It is in this area more than any other that Snom pushes at the limits in IP Phone design. Snom add uniqueness to their product offering in the quality of audio achieved improving and enhancing the basic CODEC quality.

Once a drawing of the design is approved a prototype is made and the handset is tested mechanically to ensure the design is practical and efficient. There follows a series of tests and modifications aimed at achieving an optimum balance of audio quality, practical efficiency and beauty in design.

It is during this stage that unique elements can be added into the handset design to enhance it’s usability in the workplace. For example some of the Snom handsets have a unique stand that enables them to be either desk or wall mounted at the angle best suited to the user.  This makes them more comfortable in use for some workers. There are also differences between handset models based on the environment in which they are to be used.  For example a phone designed for voice use in noisy offices is designed to reduce interference from outside noise.  One intended for use in an office where users have to concentrate has a handset designed to be put down quietly without disturbing other people in the office.

Another example is that a handset designed for use by service providers and on premise installations with remote office must avoid the need for local provisioning or configuration, and one designed for use in a local office environment must include abilities to interface with other devices in the office. Mobility is the main design feature that users focus on as a differentiator.  However in a professional handset range there are numerous other features that make one handset more appropriate for use than another.

The design of the handset is critical.  If a handset feature is incorrectly optimised by the manufacturer then new software can be introduced to make the change needed to improve the sound or usability.  Although this is inconvenient to the customer, and unprofessional from the manufacturer’s perspective the costs incurred are low.

This is not an approach used at Snom but some manufacturers do release multiple software upgrades using just this model – test and change at the expense of the customer in order to keep their own costs low and speed to market rapid.

If the basic phone design changes the costs incurred for replacement of the expensive and specialist tools used to inject the plastic components are irrecoverable.  This high cost of error is one reason that Snom keep all our design and prototype manufacture in house in Berlin. Hence we have the control to ensure the design is tested in small quantities tool production before it moves to mass production elsewhere. This approach ensures we have a tight control over the quality of our handsets and are able to ensure that we produce professional and enterprise IP phones.

This post on ip phone aesthetics is the 7th in our series on how to design an ip phone. Other posts in the series are linked to below:

How to design an ip phone
How to design an ip phone for voice quality
IP phone design for it departments
IP Phone Security
IP Phone Interoperability
IP phone ROI

Check out all our VoIP posts here.

Business UC voip voip hardware

Designing for the Financial Director – IP Phone ROI

ip phone roi ip phone interoperability ip phone security lesley hansen on designing an ip phoneWhy does the Finance Director care about IP Phone Design? It’s all about IP Phone ROI

In her sixth post this week the SNOM’s prolific Marketing Manager Lesley Hansen talks about IP Phone ROI (Return on Investment).

The best quality and most elegantly designed IP Phone in the world will not be widely accepted unless it meets business expectations regarding cost. Cost in its broadest sense will include cost of acquisition, cost of deployment, cost of ownership and return on investment. Any IP Phone design must consider each and every one of these aspects. It is because of the pressure on all businesses to meet financial targets that the Finance Director is a critical player in our considerations as we design and manufacturer each new IP handset.

Since much of the motivation for moving to IP telephony is cost related building an accurate business case, including capital, implementation, and operational costs, is crucial to selecting the best vendor and architecture for your organization.

Cost of Acquisition

There are hundreds if not thousands of IP phones on the market and they range in price from around £50 for standard phones to several thousand pounds for secure encrypted handsets for use by government employees.

Soft phones are the simplest and least expensive type of IP telephone since many are available free of charge. Soft phones work through specialised software installed directly onto a PC, laptop, or mobile phone handset. With a soft phone no handset is required, but for the comfort of the user and for improved voice quality soft phones are best used with a good quality headset or USB telephone.

One you start looking at an IP handsets at the bottom of the range you find the standard phone without many bells and whistles.  Typically standard features include caller ID, limited conferencing capabilities and speed dial.  As you move up in price you gain capabilities such audio capabilities and audio quality for features such as speaker phones, wider conferencing capabilities, history memory, programmable options and support for hearing aids.

Even further on you get advanced functionality such as support for voicemail and CTI options.  You also gain connectivity options as the price increases, moving from a connected IP handset with an Ethernet port to ones that supports WiFi and Gigabit Ethernet, multiple Ethernet USB connections and even Bluetooth.

At the top of the range, excluding specialist phones such as the security handset already mentioned, are complex professional handsets with high quality audio provided through noise cancelling capabilities making them ideal for the busy and noisy office. Some come with programmable options for integration into your business processes as well as colour display screens with web access.

Depending on the role of the person using the IP Phone, there will be a different set of needs and each person will be looking for something different in their handset. An executive may want the latest and greatest IP Phone, while a receptionist may only be concerned with the number of total calls they can handle at one time. Most people want the standard features in a phone such as Call Waiting, Call Transfer, Call Parking and Conferencing. The items that will most effect the cost per handset are needs such as a high quality speakerphone, a large display and the capability for extra extensions.

So the selection of the right IP Phone is likely to involve a number of different handset types,  a range of costs to meet the difference requirements of different employees and a degree of integration with your business functions. Doing your homework on what handsets are needed by the business is likely to save the company money in the long run. Providing handsets where the price reflects the importance of features to the business is paramount.

Cost of Deployment

Hosted VoIP is increasingly being adopted to avoid the excess costs and complexities of deployment of on-premise solutions. This is great from the end customer’s point of view as they get predictable costs.  For the IP phone manufacturer it simply moves the demands for easy to  deploy handset to the service provider rather than the end customer. The need is still there. The installation, provisioning and training costs for IP handset deployment varies greatly from vendor to vendor as well as from installation to installation. For example the question of how many remote deployment teams are needed and the complexity of the server/PBX installation will affect costs.

To reduce the costs of deployment Auto Provisioning can be used to provide general and specific configuration parameters (“Settings”) to the phones and to manage firmware actualization. Deployment applications enable enterprise customers and service providers to reduce deployment costs with automated remote configuration and ongoing management of the IP phones.

The Auto Provisioning application provided by Snom allows remote administration (configuration and maintenance) of an unlimited number of distinct Snom phone types. This application enables the user to unpack a Snom handset from the box, connect it to a local network and get it up and running without the need to configure anything.

The phones can be set up manually but the easiest way to provisioning the IP Handsets is to use the built-in plug and play provisioning functionality. The phone configures itself by retrieving a PBX generated phone configuration file from interoperability partners or using the phones DHCP.  The provisioning manager needs to approve the handset registration and assign an extension. The server will send a provisioning link to the phone. Once the phone receives the link, it will apply the configuration on the fly, and will be ready to use. If a firmware update is needed, a restart will be performed.

Selecting handsets designed for remote provisioning is critical in the long term cost of any IP Telephony solution.

Cost of Ownership

A lot has been written about the ongoing costs of owning an IP Telephony systems. It’s tough to get accurate operational costs before actually incurring those costs, but we do know based on experience that operational costs tend to be highest during the first two years of usage of a new technology. Once staffs gain expertise from using the technology, the operational costs drop by about 20%.  Reports indicate that without installing a solution offering ease of operation and remote management it is easy for a company to simply spend the money they have saved on Moves, Adds and Changes (MACs) by moving to IP Telephony on the management and monitoring of the new IP telephony system. External MACs for an old TDM environments use to cost £120 on average, and range from £50 to £200 each. IP MACs typically cost under £10 each.

The Graphical User Interface of an IP-PBX or Telephony Server will be much more user friendly than traditional PBXs.  This allows for easier changes and additions. Because phones are IP based, they are like PCs, and when they are moved from one connection to another they connect right back up to the PBX server.

These offer considerable savings compared to a time when a simple phone move needed to have cross connects changed and a phone technician making a billable service call. However if the IP Handset is at a remote site and local configuration or a remote restart is needed then there can still be costs incurred.  The best way to control these costs is with the selection of a handset with remote management and configuration capabilities and from a vendor who is not prone to excessive numbers of firmware updates which require handset resets or reconfiguration.

Here the recommendation is that to keep operational costs low you ensure that the phone´s interface allows remote users to simulate the usage of the phone´s keypad and special features.

IP Phone ROI

The idea of moving to IP Telephony solely to save money has slowly subsided, although it has not gone away entirely. In the early years of VOIP, companies had to find an ROI in order to justify replacing tried-and-true equipment for new technology. Now, they’re more often already in a TDM-replacement phase, so ROI becomes less important as organizations are focusing on other benefits, such as streamlined features, improved productivity, and integrated voice/data/video collaborative applications.

To be clear, there can be a net savings, and this is typically achieved after the first two years. But this net saving is easily eroded if the IP Handset selected is not suitable so that handsets have to be replaced, possibly because the wrong model for the role was selected in the first place or because the usage levels experienced in a busy office.

While the eventual costs savings for installing IP Telephony can be substantial, the start-up costs of deploying an IP telephony solution depend on a number of variables, including the size of the enterprise and the choice of vendor. To help organizations understand the total cost of ownership (TCO) of an IP telephony.

Other posts in our IP phone design week:

How to design an ip phone
How to design an ip phone for voice quality
IP phone design for it departments
IP Phone Security
IP Phone Interoperability

Check out all our VoIP posts here.

Deployment is a key contribution of the Value Added Reseller involved in the sale. Anyone interested in becoming a Snom VAR can check out their site here.

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IP Phone Interoperability cc @snom

No man is an island – IP Phone interoperability explored

ip phone interoperability ip phone security lesley hansen on designing an ip phoneIn the fifth article of the series SNOM UK Marketing Manager Lesley Hansen talks about IP Phone interoperability.

Ensuring that you make the most out of your investment is important and is often a consideration as you shop for a new phone system. Budget-conscious business decision makers will want to protect their investment in existing hardware or applications. Forward looking companies plan for the longer term and want to ensure today’s investment remains part of tomorrows solution,. IP phone interoperability is therefore an important issue.

Gateways can be used to help businesses connect a legacy PBX, take the first step towards SIP, or even connect to a Unified Communications(UC) solution. However using a gateway is like involving an interpreter in a conversation. The information will get across but it is slower and more likely to be subject to misunderstandings.#

Optimum performance and simplicity is achieved by selecting products that have been tested and proven to interoperate together.

There is no unique definition of ip phone interoperability because the word has different meanings depending on the context. There are also different shades of interoperability. What can be interoperable in one given system implementation may not work with another, different implementation.

The glossary of telecommunications terms, from NTIA’s ITS defines interoperability as “the ability of systems, units, or forces to provide services to and accept services from other systems, units or forces and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together” and as “the condition achieved among communications-electronics systems or items of communications-electronics equipment when information or services can be exchanged directly and satisfactorily between them and/or their users.”  To me the interesting words here are effectively and satisfactorily.

 The more diverse networks, products and vendors exist, the greater the need to ensure that they can interoperate to ensure that end-to-end communication is possible. At the same time, the more difficult the problem becomes.

So what happened to the standards?

Standards enable interoperability in a multi-vendor, multi-network, multi-service environment. Good standards should leave little room for options and should be universal, produced in consensus with other interested bodies. Of course, this needs time, so a proper balance between quality and speed is needed otherwise a standard that takes too long to produce becomes obsolete.

In a competitive situation not all vendors will choose to comply to all parts of the standards. Moving away from a standard in small ways is what often produces competitive differentiation. It is often non-compliance with standards that secures a long term customer unable to incorporate other vendors’ products into the network. Often, particularly  with larger vendors, a divergence from a standard will over time evolve into a new standard, further confusing business user with a wide array of incompatible standards.

End points in the telephony solution are one of the low cost high volume items in the network.  As such IP Phones are one of the aspects of the IP Telephony solution where standards and interoperability should give the business choice and flexibility without loss of functionality.  Here there is little if any justification for  the use of non-standard based products.  Even standard products however can still have interoperability issues.

Is Interoperability Important to IP Handsets?

There are two possible approaches to IP handsets.  One is to regard the handsets as disposable with a write off period of 12 or 18 months. In this case durability and interoperability are probably both moot subjects as long as the handset functions as well as needed when purchased.  The handset will effectively be written off in the first year of the project and there is no need for it to be interoperable with any other part of the network.

Alternatively there are professional and enterprise handsets where the investment in the handset is recognised as being not only the cost of the hardware but the provisioning and support and maintenance costs. In this case the build quality of the handset is likely to be considerably higher and the life of the handset considerably longer. The Snom 300 series handset for example has a life expectancy in excess of 8 years, a fact that considerably improves the ROI for any IP Telephony project.

If you make the decision to invest in a short life, low cost end points then it is possible using an Audio Lab to have the solution tested with the PBX and IP network to ensure you are not sacrificing voice quality. In a fully equipped Audio Lab you can measure the quality of your VoIP phones and VoIP accessories including wired and wireless headsets, speakerphones and conference audio-devices by utilizing state-of-the-art audio quality measurement equipment and an anechoic chamber facility.

Leading measurement technology combined with the know-how and experience of the audio quality team enables comprehensive subjective and objective testing to determine audio quality parameters to maximize VoIP device potential. The measurement system should use the IP phone specifications published in the latest ETSI and TIA releases.

Establishing IP Handset Interoperability

VoIP systems employ session control and signalling protocols to control the signalling, set-up, and tear-down of calls. They transport audio streams over IP networks using special media delivery protocols that encode voice, audio with audio codecs. Various codecs exist that optimize the media stream based on application requirements and network bandwidth.

So we must look beyond the standardised elements such as session control, signalling and codes when we look for IP Handset interoperability. This is where testing comes in and why most vendors are committed to working with partners to establish and maintain the inter-operability of their products for effective and satisfactory working. Effective and satisfactory implies the need to support the features of the device without any loss of voice quality or service or any degradation to the advertised features of the products.

For example the Microsoft Unified Communications Open Interoperability Programme tests and qualifies devices, infrastructure components, online solutions, services, and solutions provided by third party companies for interoperability with Microsoft Lync Server and clients. Their qualification programs for enterprise telephony services and infrastructure ensure that customers have seamless experiences with setup, support, and use of qualified telephony infrastructure and services with Microsoft’s unified communications software.

Testing IP Handsets

Typically only products that meet rigorous and extensive testing requirements and conform to the specifications and test plans will receive qualification in a vendors interoperability programme. While the specifications are based on industry standards, the programs also define specific requirements for interoperability with third party devices and testing requirements for qualifying interoperability. To qualify as interoperable with third party PBXs or telephony servers IP handsets must meet enterprise-class standards for audio quality, reliability, and scalability. Basic interoperability testing for IP Handset with a PBX would include items such as

  • Call Origination
  • Call Termination (calls are terminated correctly)
  • Call failure handling
  • Hold – Unhold a call
  • DTMF functionality

Additional to these basic interoperability tests the following functions are recommended for IP Handset/PBX interoperability testing:

  • VoiceMail integration
  • attended/unattended transfer
  • Music on Hold
  • Busy lamp field

As a footnote the VoIP industry periodically gets together to test ip phone interoperability. This get together was originally called the SIP bakeoff until a certain bakery products manufacturer threatened legal action. These “test fests” have long since been called SIPITs, details of which can be seen here.

Other posts in our IP phone design week:

How to design an ip phone
How to design an ip phone for voice quality
IP phone design for it departments
IP Phone Security

Check out all our VoIP posts here.

Business security voip voip hardware

IP Phone Security

ip phone security lesley hansen on designing an ip phoneIP Phone Security ensures IP Telephony is not compromising the business

She’s back again. Guest editor Lesley Hansen discusses what needs to be considered in ip phone security design.

VoIP or IP phone security is a hot topic. Security attacks continue to evolve and attackers find ever more sophisticated ways of attacking systems. VoIP is only an application running on the IP network, and therefore it inherits the security issues of the IP network. This means VoIP security is only as reliable as the underlying network security and if the IP network has security vulnerabilities, these can be exploited once VoIP is implemented.

The goal of every IP network component manufacturer should be to build a product that maintains a high level of security and provides relevant data to tools to monitor the system for attacks.  Once the system in in place ongoing IP telephony security maintenance is primarily related to the IP PBX or telephony servers; keeping up-to-date with operating system and third-party service packs to eliminate well-known security holes, implementing critical support patches on servers, updating anti-virus definitions to protect against well-known worms and viruses and performing daily backups of servers with periodic data recovery tests.

But the IP handset is an important point of access into the IP network. End points such as IP handsets provide a point of vulnerability and a number of standard exist to secure the telephony network, but these are not always supported in the IP Handset, and where supported they are not always implemented by the network manager.

Avoiding Denial of Service Attacks

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks can take down telephony. A distributed DoS (DDOS) attack is a concerted and coordinated effort to flood a network with requests. Though the attacked network may not be penetrated, these attacks can “busy” a system rendering it unusable. To protect against this it is important while implementing the IP handsets to ensure that ports are not unnecessarily left open, all unnecessary ports and services should be shut down and unused services should be deactivated. This is where interoperability partners become key.

For example PBX manufacturers like 3CX and Vodia Snom 1 and Asterix PBXs support the Snom security settings from the handset – out of the box.  This means there are no configuration requirements so delivering a rapid roll out while ensuring the system is up and running with full security and minimum disruption or delays. Not all PBX manufacturers and IP handset vendors will be interoperability partners.  To ensure a wide number of PBXs can be supported and provide the business with a high degree of choice handset vendors should work with the TLS and SRTP standards for configuration setup.

TLS and SSL encrypt the data of network connections in the application layer. They use X.509 certificates and hence asymmetric cryptography to authenticate the other party with whom they are communicating, and to exchange a key. This session key is then used to encrypt data flowing between the parties.

Protect Against Unauthorised Access

When deploying an IP telephony system IT personnel and voice administrators need to take appropriate measures to prevent threats such as toll fraud. Toll fraud refers to internal or external users using the corporate phone system to place unauthorized toll calls. Toll fraud can occur with both TDM and IP-based voice systems and a standard method of protecting against it is the ability to control call type’s for example banning mobile or international calls.

This call control is sometimes handled by low cost routing within the PBX but it can also be done within the IP handset dial plans. A handset with this capability helps to protect against telephone fraud even when the PBX does not have low cost routing.

Ideally in a well-designed handset the telephone will provide security beyond that provided by the firewall. Security at the handset ensures protection from people on the inside network who have physical access to phones and can bypass the firewall. This means the handsets provide a higher level of security against phone tapping/unauthorised access. Supporting the 8021x standard helps avoids fraudulent use of the network and protects against 3rd party/un-authorised devices. Handsets that supports 8021x, where the PBX also supports the standard, will allow the device to request authentication from the switch. This ensures that if a device connecting to the switch does not have the credentials then the switch does not allow access.

Encryption Against Eavesdropping

VoIP systems that don’t use encryption make it relatively easy for an intruder to intercept calls. Any protocol analyser can pick and record the calls without being observed by the callers. In man-in-the-middle attacks, an internal user spoofs the IP address of a router or PC to spy on voice traffic as well as data entered on the phone keypad during a voice conversation, such as passwords. After copying the information, the user forwards the voice traffic to the intended destination so that neither the sender nor the recipient knows that the conversation was intercepted. Typical motives include espionage and harassment.

Eavesdropping has become easier because of widely available packet-sniffing tools. The method used to combat this is encryption. Provided that both the handset and the PBX supports the standards, encryption ensure that the audio and the signalling traffic are both protected. Products can be configured as enabled for security so that signalling is in TLS and audio in SRTP. These security encryption standards means that all communications from the handset to the PBX/Server is protected from snooping and tapping.

Greater levels of encryption are available but at a cost. At the top of the pile Secusmart in Dusseldorf provides an encryption technology currently used by the German government that can be incorporated into the IP Handset, these handsets are forbidden for sale to counties under embargo and the end users need to be checked and validated before despatching handsets. At CeBit a Snom handset with GSMK Cryptophone technology was presented, this provides an internationally accepted secure IP handset solution that sells to sells to organisations such as military, government, pharmaceutical and broadcasting where the information has such a high value that the increased cost for the handset and call manager with encryption is justified.

Once end points with the required standards are selected, for many organisations attention to detail during set up and use of passwords, plus a controlled rollout of the handsets and strictly following instructions when installing the endpoints plus using the SRTP protocol or VPN tunnels to increase network security will provide a secure solution without the additional investment in these higher levels of encryption.

Other posts in our IP phone design week:

How to design an ip phone
How to design an ip phone for voice quality
IP phone design for it departments

Check out all our VoIP posts here.

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What the IT department is looking for in an IP phone design

lesley hansen on designing an ip phoneIP Phone Design for IT Departments

In her third post of the week on IP phone design SNOM Technology AG Marketing Manager Lesley Hansen explores the issues that have to be taken into consideration to keep the CIO happy – IP phone design for IT departments.

The average Information Technology (IT) Department is a busy places, especially since IT and Telecoms have now come together in one area of responsibility within most organisations. The challenges posed by telephony have increased since hot desking and mobile working have become an intrinsic part of business life.

The scale may change but the same challenges apply whether you are an individual running IT for a small business or a team running IT for a large company. In addition to maintaining existing systems and handling moves, adds and changes most IT departments are actively working to introduce new systems and applications and they often also provide a helpdesk function for assistance to all staff with use systems and application software.

So when we introduce the IT department to a new IP handset it is important to have recognised the demands and pressures they are under and so we need to have made sure we have incorporated their requirements while designing the product. Critical considerations for IT are those characteristics that facilitates the easy and cost effective operation of their department. In practical terms this means we need to consider issues of support, adds, moves and changes, return on investment, configuration, maintenance and use of the handset in multiple scenarios and situations.

Supporting Moves, Adds and Changes

Moves, adds and changes (MAC) is the general term for the routine work performed on computer and telephony equipment in a business and includes installations, relocations and upgrades. The professional handset must be easy to set up and administer ongoing and must not break the IT budget and MACs can be one of the most costly aspects of supporting a telephone system.

Adding additional IP handsets involves the configuration and installation of the new handsets and it’s synchronisation with the PBX or Telephony server. With professional IP handsets today this can be done remotely by the network manager or by the Value Added Reseller using predefined user characteristics and then the preconfigure handset can be despatched directly to site to be plugged in by the user. The saves the IT specialists from travelling to site and allows them to have a central controlled view of the installations.

Change is inevitable in business as organizations grow, expand, and adapt to new market demands. Whether the changes involves moving staff or equipment in the present location or moving to an entirely new location there is a potential cost involved to the IT Team as they deploy new IP handsets or allocate users to new handsets. One of the advantages that can be designed in to an IP handset it that it can be relocated by plugging into a new Ethernet port and will automatically re synchronise with the PBX or Telephony Server.

Security Considerations

Security is a big issue today – so it is important to design IP handsets to support encryption and Snom handsets are all designed in accordance with the EU privacy recommendations. A risk of MACs is that it introduces an opportunity to security attacks. Remote Provisioning delivers substantial benefits for ITSPs & End Users, but Provisioning Servers must be secured. As a vendor we are aware that Provisioning Servers are a prime target for attack to steal SIP credentials which can then be used to make fraudulent calls.

Key protection considerations according to the Internet Telephony Services Providers’ Association (ITSPA) recommendations for provisioning are authentication of provisioning requests which should ideally be using HTTPS client certificates, ensuring that SIP passwords are deleted from SIP servers as soon as provisioned and avoiding the use of TFTP for remote provisioning. All of these considerations are important to the IT department when selecting an IP handset and Snom’s provisioning application is fully compliant with the ITSPA Recommendations for Provisioning Security, released in July 2014.

Securing VoIP communication minimizes threats to the network and the risk of theft of private information by a hackers. Security issues with a VoIP implementation often have little to do with the telephony system. If an existing network has security vulnerabilities, these can be exploited once VoIP is implemented. Your choice of handset can play a vital part in addressing security concerns. For example the Snom 710 comes with a preinstalled security certificate for quick and secure provisioning without manual interaction. It also supports the latest VoIP security protocols to ensure secure desktop communications.

Support and Cost of Downtime

Another concern for the IT specialist is downtime, a report from a major telephone supplier last year indicated that one in five companies fire an employee when a network outage occurs. The sectors where IT staff were most at risk of losing their jobs due to core network errors were the natural resources, utilities and telecoms sectors, where one in three companies fired employees. This is because network downtime is costly to the business. Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner in mid-2014 cited a figure of  $5,600 p/minute, which extrapolates to well over $300K p/hour. Even if these figures seem excessively high for your business it makes the point that the reliability, resilience and durability for all components of the network are key to the business and if neglected risk business profitability, and so the IT specialist is looking for an IP Handset that is reliable and easy to support.

Snom handsets are designed to have an have exceptionally low RMA’s – we ensure this is the case to reduce the cost to the business both in downtime and in support costs.

Costs of Ownership (COO) and Return on Investment (ROI)

A solution that will be cost effective and easy to roll out means considering not only the cost of acquisition, but the cost of ownership and life of the product but also the durability of the handset and it’s connecting network, as they effect the cost of operation and their IT budgets.

Interoperability is also key as it effects not only the cost of the solution today but also the cost to the business if changes are needed in the future. Only when all these aspects are taken into account will the IP Handset be considered to deliver value for money to the IT department. Ensure the handsets you are considering are compatible with a large number of SIP components and VoIP systems of other manufacturers. Standard based handsets reduce operational cost and complexity and so have the ability to reduce the cost of building and supporting a telephony infrastructure. Interoperability enables “best-of-breed” deployments, this best-of-breed environment meets the requirements for rapidly deploying IP Telephony solutions. Interoperability also empowers you to leverage existing investments effectively extending the life of existing components and protecting the investments you’re your business has made.

IP Handset durability is also important in this area because if reduced this increases the exchanges required due to faulty handsets, with knock on costs for repair or replacement. To keep the cost of ownership down a vendor need to ensures that the product life is sufficiently long to provide the project with a return on investment.

Further posts in this week’s guides to how to design an IP phone can be found below:

How to design an ip phone

How to design an ip phone for voice quality

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Designing IP Phones for Voice Quality

lesley hansen on designing an ip phone designing an ip phone for voice qualityDesigning IP Phones for Voice Quality

In the second of this week’s posts on designing IP phones SNOMTechnology AG UK Marketing Manager Lesley Hansen explores the subject of designing IP phones for Voice Quality.

Voice quality is not a single thing, and it can be highly subjective. Although you can measure the voice quality of a codec used in the IP Phone each vendor’s implementation of these codecs may be different, resulting in higher or lower voice quality. But voice quality is one of the primary requirement in IP Phone design for a professional and enterprise handset and skimping on voice quality testing is one of the easiest ways for a vendor to avoid development costs and produce a sub quality handset.

What is Toll Quality?

Toll Quality is the panacea. The aim of every VoIP Vendor, and the claim of many vendors is to provide Toll Quality Voice. That is voice quality equal to that of the analogue long-distance public switched network. But it is not measurable. A common benchmark telephony vendors and carriers use and the ITU has adopted to determine the quality of is the mean opinion score (MOS). MOS is a test that has been used for decades in telephony networks to obtain the human user’s view of the quality of the network. A MOS score of 4 is perceptible but not annoying and 5 is rated as excellent. But MOS provides a subjective measurement based on a single set of circumstances. For instance the MOS score given in a quite office and that given in an office with extensive background noise would be different.

Measuring Voice over IP (VoIP) is more objective, and uses a calculation based on performance of the IP network over which it is carried. The calculation is defined in the ITU-T PESQ P.862 standard. Like most standards, the implementation is somewhat open to interpretation by the manufacturers. Even more significant, depending on the implementation by the IP Phone manufacturers, a calculated MOS of 3.9 in a VoIP network may actually sound better than the formerly subjective score of > 4.0 that was considered to be the equivalent to Toll Quality.

Building the Handset

The design of the handset will also affect audio quality, this includes aspects such as the thickness of the plastic selected and the shape of the phone. For best quality IP Phone design an audio engineer is involved with the industrial designer from the first stage of each new phone design. The audio engineer can explain the audio rules to the designer.

For instance every speaker needs a chamber to create depth of voice, the curves on the phones will affect how audio signal is reflect, and the thickness of the plastic used is critical to the final audio quality achieved.

Handset design is a trade-off between the rules of audio and the aesthetic vision of the designer. It is this seeking for high quality audio combined with pleasing aesthetic design that forces IP Phone developers to improve and come up with new solutions that take them beyond today’s knowledge on achieving high quality audio.

Selecting the CODECs

The word codec is a shortening of ‘compressor-decompressor’ or, more commonly, ‘coder-decoder’. A codec encodes a data stream or signal for transmission, storage or encryption, or decodes it for playback or editing. As with conventional telephony, with VoIP the speech is initially captured in analogue form with a microphone. This analogue information is then transferred into a digital format by a converter and changed through codecs into corresponding audio-binary formats.

In order for the data to be converted correctly back into speech after being transported, the receiver must use the same codec as the sender. Depending on the codec used, the data can be compressed to differing extents in this process. Most codecs use a procedure through which information not important for the human ear is omitted. This reduces the amount of data and thus reduces the bandwidth required for transfer. However, if too much information is omitted, the speech quality will suffer.

Different codec procedures handle the audio compression with different levels of efficiency. Some are specifically designed to achieve a low bandwidth at any cost. Depending on the codec, therefore, the bandwidth needed and the speech quality will vary. The design skills of the IP Phone manufacturer in the management of codecs creates a clear differentiation between vendors.

Refining Voice Quality

Methods such as jitter buffers, echo suppression, echo cancellation and packet loss concealment can be used in IP handset design to improve voice quality.

Echo suppressors work by detecting a voice signal going in one direction on a circuit, and then inserting loss in the other direction. This added loss prevents the speaker from hearing his own voice. Echo cancellation is based on recognizing the originally transmitted signal that re-appears, with some delay, in the transmitted or received signal. Once the echo is recognized, it can be removed by subtracting it from the transmitted or received signal.

When silence suppression is on, comfort noise needs to be generated locally by the IP Handset at the other end of the call so that the other party will not mistakenly believe that the call has been terminated. By preventing echo from being created or removing echo if it is already present voice quality is improved, at Snom we call this Automatic Noise Reduction.

IP Phones echo controls are implemented digitally using a digital signal processor (DSP) or software and at Snom we implement to the ITU requirements. Digital signal processing is the mathematical manipulation of the information signal to modify or improve it. DSP is not one size fits all. Different DSP coefficient pre-sets are needed for different room types. Refining the voice using these techniques will improve the subjective quality, as an additional benefit the process also increases the effective use of bandwidth as silence suppression prevents echo from traveling across the voice network.

Transmitting high quality voice over IP is made more difficult due to packet loss and jitter. A technique used to reduce jitter involves buffering audio packets at the receiving handset, so that slower packets arrive in time to be played out in the correct sequence at the appropriate times. The objective of jitter buffering is to keep the packet loss rate low and so improve the voice quality. A fixed method, which uses a fixed buffer size, is easier to implement than an adaptive method, but will result in less satisfactory audio quality because there is no optimal delay when network conditions vary with time.

Snom handsets support adaptive jitter buffers which although more complex and expensive to implement perform continuous estimation of the network delays and dynamically adjust the playout delay at the beginning of each transmission so ensuring a high quality of voice.

Packet loss concealment (PLC) is a technique to mask the effects of packet loss in VoIP communications. Because the voice signal is sent as packets on a VoIP network, they may travel different routes to get to destination. At the receiver a packet might arrive very late, corrupted or simply might not arrive. This could happen where a packet is rejected by a server which has a full buffer and cannot accept any more data. In a VoIP connection, the receiver should be able to cope with packet loss.

All these voice techniques enhance and improve voice quality, and are quantifiable and measurable components of high quality IP Phone design and should be viewed as absolute requirements in professional and enterprise handsets.

Testing the Voice Quality

Testing voice quality on a new product should begin as soon as a first injection of plastic is produced and continue throughout the life cycle of the product.  In Snom we believe in the value of doing our testing house and have made a considerable investment in German engineered state of the art Audio equipment that will simulate not only the voice from the phone handset and speaker phone and in relationship to the human head, but also test for voice quality under different conditions such as with background noise from a busy office or factory and in a variety of network conditions. Ongoing testing ensure the quality of voice provided by VoIP phones and VoIP accessories and end points including wired and wireless headsets, speakerphones and conference audio-devices.

Accurate and effective audio measurements require time, preparation and patience. Snom’s testing in done in our Head office in Berlin using our state-of-the-art audio quality measurement equipment and anechoic chamber facility. Leading measurement technology combined with the know-how and experience of the Snom audio quality team enables comprehensive subjective and objective testing to determine audio quality parameters to maximize VoIP device potential. The measurement system uses the IP phone specifications .published in the latest ETSI and TIA releases.

Check out a past article on SNOM audio quality testing here. Also the first post in this series of designing IP phones can be found here.

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How to design an IP phone

lesley hansen on how to design an ip phoneWhat is involved in designing an IP Phone?

Lesley Hansen is UK Marketing Manager of German SIP handset vendor SNOM Technology AG and is this week guest editor of This role of guest editor is one that I have introduced to bring a focus on specific themes and is an enhancement of the “themed weeks” that have become so successful on this blog.

Lesley is a time served veteran of the telecoms industry and SNOM are one of the oldest players in the SIP game. SNOM were there right at the beginning of the SIP industry before commercial services were available. When SNOM introduced their first handset the only other vendors around were Siemens and Pingtel (long since deceased). SNOM and Lesley are uniquely positioned to talk about their subject.

This week Lesley  has at my invitation put together  a series of posts outlining the issues and challenges involved in the design and manufacture of IP Telephony handsets. SNOM are obviously going to get a lot of mentions in this series but the intent is not to be a sales pitch for the company. It is natural for Lesley to refer to her own company’s experience in writing the pieces. In this first post Lesley outlines the areas that she is going to cover this week.  She refers to articles that are coming during the week and to which I will link as they go live. I leave the rest to her…

This is the introduction to a multi-part series of articles looking at the issues involved in designing an IP phone. Founded in 1996, Snom Technology AG manufactured the world’s first SIP Handset and continues today to provide a market leading brand of professional and enterprise IP Handsets. As such we are exceptionally well qualified to discuss the concerns and challenges of designing IP Phones.

What is an IP Handset?

A VoIP or IP phone is simply a handset that uses Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to allow calls to be made and received over an IP network (like the Internet) instead of using the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The audio signals from the voice calls are digitized into IP data packets, the handset is connected to an IP network and these IP packets are routed through a private IP network or over the public Internet creating a connected voice call.

IP Phones look very much like traditional office handsets but they are based on a different underlying technology. The use of IP Technology raised potential issues of call quality due to the breaking of the voice into small data packets and these have to be managed in the handset design, and since IP Phones interface with VoIP system telephony software, they have to be able to support features and capabilities that were not provided by traditional office phones. This additional functionality makes the user interface more critical to ensure an easy to use and reliable handset. A good quality of design in an IP Phone can make the IP Handset a valuable resource for many years. A poor design can deliver poor quality voice and become an expensive resource to support and a source of much frustration from business users.

Designing to meet user expectations

Users have clear demands. They want their IP Phones to work and they want them to look good. The problems in designing an IP Phone arise when we try to quantify what working and looking good really means. Elegance and simplicity are very important in phone design but must be balanced with practicality and ease of use this is one of the challenges of IP Phone design. (Further Information: Article on Designing for Beauty)

People are very finicky about voice quality in VoIP because they were used for years to the impeccable quality of landline phones.  The standard for voice quality on a telephone handset has therefore been set by the PSTN and this is what we refer to as toll quality voice.

Voice quality was one of the darkest spots on VoIP’s reputation the early years after its introduction. Now there has been much improvement. For toll quality voice to be achieved on an IP Phone the issues created by using a packet based network where there are no inherent controls on the order or speed of delivery of the packets have to be considered in the phone design. Echo, choppy voice, broken voice, buzzing and delayed speech are common descriptions of problems experienced with the early VoIP connections.  Although some of these factors are the result of a variety of factors not all related to the handset itself, the handset design must minimise the effect of each of these. The one of these most attributed to the IP Handset is echo and designing for echo cancellation and control is key. (Further Information:  article on Voice Quality)

Designing for the demands of IT

One of the challenges with an IP Phone is that the handset has to be configured before the phone can talk to the IP Telephony PBX or IP Server, so before the phone can be used. Provisioning is critical, at its core, the provisioning process monitors access rights and privileges to ensure the security of an enterprise’s resources and user privacy. As a secondary responsibility, it ensures compliance and minimizes the vulnerability of systems to penetration and abuse. In a good quality phone design it is possible to configure phones centralised, which saves a lot of time and money in sending personnel to site.

But the demand is not only these during setup, the design should also ensure updating phones or setting special configurations is easy. This is possible because of this centralisation. Auto-provisioning or auto-configuration is the name we give to this easy and time-saving way to configure IP-phones for IP-PBXs. With auto-provisioning, all user information is entered at the central web interface of the PBX or form the IP Phone management software.  Required data includes the MAC address of the IP-phone, the desired extension and the caller ID which is displayed on the called party phone display. The IP-phone receives the configuration over the local IP network. (Further Information:  Article on Designing for the IT Department)

Ensuring IP Telephony is not compromising the Business

The growing reliance on VoIP has reduced business telephony costs, but it also increases their complexity and this needs to be kept in mind in the IP Handset design. Security has become one of the hottest issues in telecom management. IP telephony not only increases the complexity of data networks, particularly in hybrid telephony environments built with equipment from multiple vendors but it increases security risks. For IP telephony management to be effective it cannot focus solely on reporting on network usage, ensuring dial tone availability and managing call quality, it must place an emphasis on security and protecting the enterprise from telephony-borne attacks.

Today telecom managers face pressure to protect the organization from telephony-related threats, and to do it all while cutting costs and improving ROI. Security measures such as encrypting voice services, placing VoIP equipment behind firewalls, and defending against Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are just some of the steps you can take when introducing VoIP into your organization’s network infrastructure.  Other measures include guarding against toll fraud, securing phone records, and protecting the phones. While there is no such thing as a bulletproof VoIP implementation, you can protect your business by selecting IP Handsets designed to provide high quality security to the business. (Further Information:  article on Designing for Security)

No man is an island – and neither is an IP Phone!

Many solutions using IP Phones are hybrids. A hybrid telephony solution could be mixing either IP or PSTN, it could involve a mix of hosted and on premise telephony services and to get the fully set of functionality needed by the business it is likely to include hardware from multiple vendors. Even if an IP Telephony solution is deployed as single vendor, single deployment single technology it is highly likely that over time elements of third party products or new technologies will be introduced.

It is therefore very important when designing an IP Handset that standard are complied with consistently to ensure the IP Phone is able to operate in a mixture of existing and potential environments. Snom’s operates an interoperability program that gives customers the opportunity to find out which components work with each other. To assure the interoperability between the IP Phones and other elements of the IP Telephony solution, all Snom handsets undergo a range of interoperability tests in our labs. Advanced features such as transfer and Music on Hold are required to work. For our partners gaining the Snom Advanced level of interoperability means that the customer can be assured that the tested functionality works smoothly. (Further Information:  article on Designing for Interoperability)

And the final design criteria – cost

The best quality and most elegantly designed IP Phone in the world will not be widely accepted unless it meets the business expectations regarding cost. Cost in its broadest sense will include cost of acquisition, cost of deployment, cost of ownership and return on investment. Any IP Phone design must consider each and every one of these aspects. (Further Information:  article on Designing for the Financial Director)

Snom’s investment in Handset design is significant and over 45% of our workforce is focused on Handset design, testing and development. This approach has made Snom a leader in the market and unique software and hardware developments on the Snom handsets are emulated by many other IP Telephony and Handset manufacturers.

Lots and lots of VoIP posts on – check em out here

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VoIP Security and Your IP Phone

Concerns about massive growth of telephone tapping incidents has led to a growing demand for IP telephone handsets that provide VoIP security. welcomes VoIP Week contributor David Kirsopp, Technical Director snom UK Ltd

An IP-PBX can be reached from potentially anywhere in the world, and your communications network is vulnerable if not properly secured. As such, making sure you enhance security through your choice and implementation of your IP handsets is one of the security measures you should be considering when introducing VoIP into the organization’s network infrastructure.

Concerns about massive growth of telephone tapping incidents has led to a growing demand for secure telephone handsets. The practical availability of secure telephones is restricted by such factors as politics, export issues, incompatibility between different products, and high prices.

When the VoIP traffic over the Internet is unencrypted, anyone with network access can listen in on conversations. Unauthorized interception of audio streams and decoding of signaling messages can enable an eavesdropper to tap audio conversations in an unsecured VoIP environment, a common threat. And eavesdropping is how most hackers steal credentials and other information; for example, customers reciting their credit card numbers to an airline booking attendant. All that’s needed is a packet capturing tool, freely available on the Internet, or switch port mirroring, and hackers can save the files, take them home, and cause disaster with the stolen information.

Equally or more dangerous than the hacking of the phone calls themselves is that the phone system may enable entry into the company network, and thus the phone connection becomes as portal to all data within the company.

Of course, there are solutions and safeguards that can reduce or even eliminate security weaknesses within VoIP systems.

Authentication-Based IP Addresses

Static configuration of your IP phones to your extensions will prevent easy access by intruders into a conversation. Specifically, you can specify at the IP-PBX which IP address can use a particular extension as a trusted address.


Unlike PSTN calls which traverse dedicated circuits, VoIP calls are really just data going across the Internet…data that must be protected. By using encryption techniques like TLS and SRTP, you can protect both the signaling and the media stream, preventing others from listening in on the conversation using simple tools such as port mirroring and an RTP trace.

SIP packets contain private information: the IP address of the phone, the SIP server, the signaling and media ports that it’s expecting to listen on, the MAC address of the phone, and in some cases even the management port of the phone. This information should be sent over a TLS tunnel to hide it from snoopers, who though they will be able to see TLS packets will have no idea what’s in them.

Well-designed IP phones provide secure SIP signaling via TLS and audio stream encryption by incorporating SRTP (Secure Real-time Transport Protocol), a security profile that adds confidentiality, message authentication, and replay protection to the RTP protocol. SRTP is ideal for protecting Voice over IP traffic because it can be used in conjunction with header compression and has no effect on IP Quality of Service. These factors provide significant advantages, especially for voice traffic using low-bit rate voice codecs such as G.729. Ensure your phones provide TLS-based SIP signaling (SIPS) with a SIP proxy server and audio stream encryption using secure RTP based on 128-bit AES. SIPS not only prevents message manipulation and eavesdropping, but it also assures the proxy server of the identity of the client phone; hence, identity spoofing threats are also subdued by this mechanism. Some phones, including those produced by snom, also use AES in counter mode (AES-CM) for secure RTP, which creates a unique key stream for each RTP packet and thus makes it almost impossible for eavesdroppers to retrieve the original RTP stream from the encrypted SRTP stream.

Secure Media (over UDP)

If you want to increase security further, then purchase a certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA) like VeriSign, which is equivalent to having your documents signed by a Notary Public who is a trusted third party, verifying that you are who you say you are.   Getting the certificate into the IP phones is currently the tricky part, as some phone vendors are not burning them in at the factory using the MAC address as part of the key.

Plug and Play and Certificates

Plug and play of phones on the wide area network is nothing new. The phone presents a MAC address, and based upon that MAC address the IP-PBX automatically provisions the phone so that it can make calls. The IP-PBX, however, is not able to verify the MAC address of the phone since it came from the WAN. In this case, the MAC address reflects that of the router as that is where it came into the LAN. This is a security risk, however some handsets have certificates burnt in at the factory, so after a key exchange the IP-PBX can be assured that the phone is who it says it is and that a certain MAC address belongs to a particular phone.

Centralised Security

Alternatively, security can be guaranteed from a central point independently from the individual applications and end devices. The advantages of this centralized approach is that it will be a one-off implementation with low maintenance costs and the possibility to secure communications from multiple manufacturers. One option for centrally provided security is a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which are typically used for connections with field bases employees in which a company network connects the branch offices to the computer centre or connects geographically separate servers or computer centers.

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VoIP Hardware: Giving a British Icon a 21st Century Makeover

Repurposing a 20th Century British classic for the new millennium. is pleased to welcome “VoIP Week” contributor Mark Williams, Director of Sales at Obihai Technology.

The GPO746 is loved by many – it’s hard to ignore the classic look and high quality construction of the original — but with most of us now using VoIP it is often left to sit there as an ornament and gather dust.  But we can give it a 21st century upgrade!

The GPO poses a few challenges for VoIP hardware enthusiasts. First, it requires a ring capacitor to drive the bells when it rings. Also, the GPO is a rotary dialer, which most modern ATAs don’t support. But where there is a will there is a way, and here I will offer detail on two approaches that can be taken to ready this classic for the world of IP.

The Easy Approach

The easiest way to get your classic phone to work with VoIP is to plug all the adapters inline, external to the phone. To convert the rotary dial clicks into DTMF you can use a Dialgizmo, a device that sits inline between the ATA and the phone. It works well, though it will occasionally detect the hook flash as a “1” and send the DTMF so you need to be careful when taking the handset off hook.

Along with the Dialgizmo you’ll need to find a ring capacitor. You can either purchase an inline ring capacitor from an online store, or you can repurpose a master socket if you have one lying around.

Finally you’ll need an ATA.

mw1-GPO746 plugged into a re-used master socket
The GPO746 plugged into a re-used master socket, which in turn in plugged into the Dialgizmo, which is plugged into an Obihai OBi202 ATA.

Using this simple conversion approach you can get your classic phone working over VoIP.  But you want a more elegant solution, I hear you say?

The Advanced Approach

You say you don’t fancy having a string of adapters connected to your classic phone? Well, if you are handy with a soldering iron, the Rotatone offers another method, an integrated solution, installed inside your GPO746.  And if you’re not handy with a soldering iron, don’t worry – they also have a service where you can send in your classic phone to have the Rotatone and a ring capacitor installed (after making a ham-fisted attempt at soldering — It’s been many years — I chose the send-in option).

The Rotatone is the black box on the left.  It is wired between the rotary dialer and the control board of the GPO746.
The Rotatone is the black box on the left. It is wired between the rotary dialer and the control board of the GPO746.

The Rotatone has the advantage of not suffering from hook switch triggering DTMF tones, and having the ring capacitor installed in the device also removes another item from the daisy chain between the phone and the ATA.

So how about we go a step further an install the ATA within our classic phone as well!

The OBi200 (and OBi300) ATA both fit perfectly between the hook switch of the GPO746.  If we remove the line cable from our phone we can wire this plug internally straight into the back of the ATA and route the power for the OBi via the line cable’s port.  Rather than drill into the case to create a hole for an Ethernet cable we can instead plug an OBiWiFi adapter into the back of the ATA to allow it to operate wirelessly.

Everything installed inside the GPO746.
Everything installed inside the GPO746.

We now have our WiFi-enabled GPO746 IP Phone, repurposed and ready for the 21st century.  And you can even take it a step further by installing an OBiBT USB adapter into the USB port.  To do this you’ll need to use a USB hub to allow plugging the OBiWiFi and OBiBT adaptors into the one port. If you can find a place to squeeze that in you will have a GPO746 that’s not only wireless but that can also pair with your mobile phone via Bluetooth.

So what are you waiting for?  Winter is just around the corner, and there are few better excuses for spending an afternoon converting your phone in a small room filled with solder fumes.  Best of luck!

Conversion Complete 1     Conversion Complete 2

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Why the Desktop VoIP Telephone isn’t Going Away

Major leaps in technology allow business phones — the desktop VoIP telephone — to serve a rapidly growing range of needs. welcomes “VoIP Week” contributor Jeff Rodman, Polycom‘s Chief Technology Evangelist. Since co-founding the company in 1990 Jeff has been instrumental in the realization of Polycom’s iconic products for voice, video, network communications, and other media.

The death of the desktop telephone has been predicted for decades. Technology has steadily advanced, business processes and communications needs have grown, and it’s actually rather surprising how that stodgy old friend the “desktop phone” has prospered. Look at its challenges: the PalmPilot, mobile phones and the Blackberry first, then on to Skype and other soft clients, unified information systems, mobile iOS, Windows and Android devices, teleworking, personal video calling, open-air workspaces, multiple Unified Communications and Control (UC&C) platforms, and the internet itself. And, of course, an always-growing need for specialised applications and consistent, efficient globalisation.

The desktop device remains firmly in place, though. What has actually happened is something that many didn’t see coming, yet is obvious in hindsight. The question was never really about when the desktop telephone would disappear, but rather how changing work needs and new technologies would shape its evolution.

“Personal transportation” did not disappear when Karl Benz introduced the Motorwagen in 1885, it evolved as technology moved beyond the horse. A broad range of personal transportation solutions emerged, from the motorbike to the motorhome, addressing such specific needs as the sedan, snowmobile, and all-terrain vehicle along the way. Similarly, the phone (which we might describe as a personal desktop live communications device) is not vanishing. It is, rather, becoming even more critical to business success, as it has advanced from its roots. Once merely the “black phone on a desk,” there is now a range of devices to cover an assortment of user needs from a basic desktop VOIP telephone to the rich integration of essential capabilities known as the Business Media Phone.

What is a phone today?

Modern business phones exist in many forms, but the most basic requirements they all share are durability and reliability. They are always on and ready for use, unlike cell phones, which require charged batteries and wireless connectivity. Similarly, soft clients or UC clients running on PCs must be running to accept calls or place calls. A phone is one thing we expect to always work, which is why they have traditionally been built like “brick houses,” never knowing who might slam down the handset, douse them with tea or drop them off of a tall table. Any phone is designed for a tightly defined set of uses, which it flawlessly performs. Whether a particular phone today supports only voice or a full bouquet of functions and applications, it is expected to do those jobs with unblinking confidence. As we will see, any device that might hope to take its place must be measured against this simple but essential standard of absolute reliability and responsiveness, one which we might call the “phone’s prime directive.”

Beyond this, major leaps in technology allow business phones to serve a rapidly growing range of needs. The adaptations to serve these can be broadly categorised in three directions— extensibility, unification, and media. Manageability and reliability, looking at the centralized support model removes the hassles from the end-user who can simply use it and doesn’t have to worry about software updates or configurations.


Whether PSTN, SIP, or some proprietary network, the most basic analogue phone needs only a handset and a phone cable. The underlying vision usually supports a much larger assortment of abilities, though, and different models within the same family will express different combinations. These can take the form of additional interfaces to support Bluetooth, wired, and DECT headsets, memory stick hosting to preserve conference audio, additional Ethernet jacks, “sidecar” accessories to provide one-touch selection of additional lines, and even add-on interactive HD video. Each of these extends the usefulness of a phone, by enabling future enhancement without burdening the initial purchase. The extent to which a phone can support this kind of evolution is one measure of its suitability for an organisation.


Although the range of abilities, environments, and platforms that might be supported by contemporary phones is much broader than it was just a few years ago, the user still expects them to work together simply and reliably. This means that functions must tie together transparently, and any complexity has to be neatly and efficiently concealed. The functions performed by the desktop phone must be able to connect to a wider set of networks; but more than that, the user’s experience has to remain consistent—a user cannot be confronted with wildly different behaviour just because, for example, SIP dialling and the Microsoft Lync platform are both in use within the organisation. For this reason, one essential requirement of a properly-implemented phone is that it retains compatibility with existing infrastructure. This means that interoperability among different UC and UC&C host platforms and simple, predictable behaviour is essential for a successful phone, whether it is a basic voice phone with enterprise directory access, or a full-fledged Business Media Phone, such as the Polycom range of VVX Business Media Phones.


Today, conversations can take place among almost any combination of styles and environments (i.e., HD or narrowband voice, accompanying charts and presentations, HD video, small-screen video from a handheld device, or even Immersive Telepresence rooms). They can be between two people in only two places, or among a gathering of groups and individuals everywhere (i.e., at airports, desks, homes, workspaces and conference rooms).

Although there is today a growing expectation that participants will join meetings with video, a phone must give its user a clear perception of the meeting and also present its user as a competent, efficient participant in that meeting, whether the user has joined with video or only audio. This means that whether sitting in open spaces or quiet offices, phones must reject surrounding noise while allowing their users to speak clearly. Further, if video capable, they must send a clear, high-fidelity image even if their display is compact. Just as a user does not want to sound like they’re on a muffled Smartphone, they also want to look as if they’re working from a professional HD video system, not shaking and blurry with a precariously- mounted camera.


The desk phone has changed and today it does enormously more than it did in the past, yet it remains a keystone of effective business operation. By providing consistency, reliability, comfort, and an easily managed connection, there are few tools in business that prove their continuing worth as well, or as quickly, as well-built table-top voice or Business Media Phones.

Over the past three years, the tables have turned. Savings that some organisations had expected to gain by leveraging employee BYOD’s have evaporated as enterprises are often now the ones who buy those smartphones for employees, often at considerably higher life-cycle cost than a well-built desk phone. This is one reason that we’re really not entering a “smartphone world,” and why the market for real desktop phones of all descriptions continues to grow. Organisations that experiment with smartphones discover that they’re no panacea, and they return to the purpose-built and IT-friendly desktop phone — and especially to its powerful newer sibling the Business Media Phone — as the tool for doing what they do best, communications without compromise…

The bottom line is that regardless of what the final decision for each employee turns out to be, the first step toward making correct choices is to carefully investigate, taking care to understand what is important to the organisation and to each user, and get the facts about the options available when making a long-term investment such as a phone system.

This is a VoIP week post on Check out other VoIP themed posts this week:

Why are major telcos afraid of encrypted VoIP? by Peter Cox
Emergency calls and VoIP by Peter Farmer
VoIP, the Bible and own brand chips by Simon Woodhead
Why the desktop VoIP telephone isn’t going away by Jeff Rodman
Small business VoIP setup by Trefor Davies
VoIP fraud-technological-conventionality-achieved  by Colin Duffy

Business voip voip hardware voip security workshop sponsors announced as Yealink

Yealink announced as voip security workshop sponsors at Sandown Park on 8th October

Further to last week’s announcement, IP phone vendor Yealink have come on board as ITSPA/ VoIP security workshop sponsors. The workshop being held during Convergence Summit South at Sandown Park on 8th October.

This is quite apt as Yealink are one of the first IP phone vendors to introduce security certificates as standard on their handsets. This means that when properly provisioned people can’t spoof your CLI because the proxy server is expecting to see a particular certificate to accompany your account credentials.

Yealink are a company that have been creeping up on the rails over the last few years. In the early days of SIP there were only a small number of handset vendors including one or two from the Far East. Then the number of players exploded as the market climbed the curve of expectancy (or whatever it is called). Now however we only see a few active vendors, at least in the UK and some of the Enterprise manufacturers don’t really appear much in the hosted market which is what ITSPA is all about.

The emergence of Yealink from the Far East is quite significant. I’m sure they must have been around for donkeys years but they have slowly grown to be one of the vendors getting most of the attention in the low end market. This is in no small part due to the team they have here in the UK.

Having Yealink on board as VoIP security workshop sponsors is a big help to the industry  as these events do cost hard cash to put on. Although the market is potentially huge – ultimately VoIP will replace the PSTN, it is still a relatively small community of players and events such as the ITSPA/ voip security workshop do represent great opportunities to get face time with stakeholders.

Anyone wanting to come to the VoIP security workshop can sign up free of charge here.

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England v India Trent Bridge – a tale of two Andersons & Yealink VoIP phone

England v India highlights – Root & Anderson  10th wicket world record, I am nearly knocked out by a cricket ball, Pamela Anderson gets cricketer autograph & I spot a Yealink VoIP phone.

England v India at Trent Bridge was the backdrop for  great day out with the kids yesterday. There are two ways to “do” the cricket. One is with your mates. This is a boozy day out beginning with a pint and “full English” at 10am in the pub followed by a steady day’s cricket watching and a curry to finish off. The other is with the kids.

It was with the kids yesterday that I was nearly knocked out by a cricket ball and saw Pamela Anderson getting an autograph from one of the English players fielding at the boundary.

Arriving early we took our seats and settled in to watch a bit of net practice. Sat at square leg the nets were just in front of us but after a while the kids wandered off to look around the ground. There I was minding my own business, not particularly watching anything, when suddenly I heard a cry and I was hit by a cricket ball.

The ball glanced off the side of my head, hit my shoulder and plopped down beside me. It took me a moment to realise what had happened. One of the batsmen in the net had hit it over the top of the side netting. A couple of inches to the right and it would have landed squarely on the top of my bonce with potentially lethal consequences.

Without thinking I picked up the ball and threw it back. I should have kept it as a souvenir. There is evidence of the incident however. My hat – pictured in the gallery below was somewhat damaged as you can see.

Test match cricket is a great day out. The entertainment is not just on the pitch. The crowd provides just as much fun as the players. In the gallery below you can see a steward trying to confiscate a “beer snake” which is a stack of empty plastic beer glasses. Much beer is drunk at these events. For some reason the stewards want to confiscate the stacked glasses. The snake gets handed around the stand, growing in size as more glasses get added on the journey. The steward trying to confiscate the snake provides great sport as each time he gets near the snake is passed along to someone else.

In the gallery below there is also a photo sequence where “Pamela Anderson” gets the autograph of one of the England fielders. Pam was there with a party of lifeguards sat quite close to us in the New Stand. Also look out for a couple of horses sat amongst the crowd.

As far as the actual England v India cricket match went we were treated to a world record tenth wicket stand of 198 runs between Joe Root (154 no) and Jimmy Anderson (81 and no relation to Pamela afaik). The game now looks like being a draw and the rain forecast for the last day will hopefully provide some respite for the English team, now fielding, who have another test starting in a few days time.

There is, as is often the case, a technology slant to this post. Hanging around the boundary at lunch I couldn’t help noticing a Yealink VoIP phone nestled in amongst the equipment of one of the cameras. I love spotting little things like this. The kids have got used to it. The Yealink VoIP phone is not dissimilar to the Cisco I spotted at the Harbour Lights cafe in Peel in the Isle of Man. I’m not sure what the Yealink VoIP phone model is. I’m sure someone out there will know:)

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Snom Audio Lab

Dusan Aleksic is the Head of Hardware Development for Snom Technology AG

In the end of nineties Serbia was under UN sanctions and as a young electro engineer I was a part of the small team tasked with maintaining the gas masks in stock. I had an open issue before me: the carbon microphone was out of date and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the microphone in question was originally produced in another part of the former Yugoslavia and it could no longer be had. Also, copying it didn’t work as our punch tool machine was unable to make such complicated rounded holes with the strange patterns, and simply making holes on the microphone’s surface and trying to talk through them produced terrible results. We quickly realized that we would need to create a new design and establish a correlation between hole-shapes and design patterns of the microphone and its audio performance. In our audio lab we had a single B&K audio measurement system, which was a bit old hat but still in good shape and still in calibration range, and after some time the job was complete.

I moved on and became a part of the new growing network convergence world that first developed digital terminals and after that VoIP and wireless devices. In the beginning of the 2000s, VoIP’s early stages, the acoustical audio measurements become unimportant. People believed that the “mighty” DSP could solve any problem, and the knowledge on terminal devices and acoustic design had been pushed to the second plane: in most cases speech transmission quality judgment excluded electroacoustic components.

How It All Started

At snom technology AG we were aware of the complexity of VoIP terminal devices from the early beginning. We improved audio quality over the years by combining our acoustic experience with the latest DSP algorithms and our VoIP signaling know-how. Specifically, we solved various issues inherent in VoIP technology, including processing delay, network delay, network packet loss, need for VAD and CNG, countless types of noise, etc. And, of course, we addressed the main issue, that being synchronization, as by its very nature VoIP is an asynchronous connection, and sometimes audio packets are dropped simply because the sender and receiver are not using the same clock.

VoIP Audio Measurement equipment evolves in sync with VoIP technology, and as a VoIP pioneer snom has helped it to quickly reach a mature state which, improving overall overall audio quality through the use of various narrow and wide band codes.

Snom Audio Lab at a Glance

For modern telecommunications, old audio standards such as TIA-810B (Narrow band) and TIA-920 (Wide Band) fail to match requirements. These standards are focused on half duplex connection. Important aspects of the audio quality are not exposed, and many typical problems remain unresolved.


TIA-based audio optimized devices are unable to match customer expectations for perfect audio quality, and for that reason two years ago the snom development team began following the latest audio requirements for wide-band audio based on ETSI 202 739 and ETSI 202 740.

With ETSI, all requirements from the TIA standard are covered, but it doesn’t stop there. ETSI extends the requirements in frequency response domain and in loudness ratings, which requires high quality electroacoustic converters. ETSI also includes double talk behavior measurements and speech quality in presence of network impairments (packet loss, jitter) and, at the end, speech quality in presence of the background noise.


Today the snom audio lab uses Head Acoustic software and equipment, and I believe we have the best-in-the-market tool to create the non-compromise audio quality. We can fully cover all ETSI measurements, and we can do additional various HQS-IP items, such as TOSQA and PESQ, or spectral echo attenuation vs. time, or test our mockup designs to fix all over-limits distortions in the very early phase of the ID development.

Snom has put all of these tools and software to design the 7xx phone family, and with this product we deliver the best quality to our customers, this according to the latest requirements of modern telecommunication. Snom7xx, for example, has been built to pass the frequency response requirement based on ETSI 202-379 at every handset-to-ear pressure. The handset uses a specially designed high leak receiver that allows for the best sound quality at every handset. We use the most realistic artificial ear type during tests, too, which makes the receive curve extremely difficult to surpass.

On another front, high quality jitter buffer and packet loss concealment software in snom 7xx have been improved via the Head Acoustic network simulator in very bad network conditions. The speakerphone has excellent double talk performance, and algorithms such as background noise cancellation and adaptive gain control provide for voice clarity in every condition.

In the end, I am glad to appease the machine haters out there by saying that subjective tests are as important as objective tests, and I can remember many cases where the good objectively-tuned phone just provides bad audio. At snom, well-tuned audio devices mean a lot of objective tuning followed by subjective sessions, until the job has is finished.

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Invest Wisely to Get the Best from VoIP welcomes VoIP Week contributor Dan Winfield, Co-Founder and CEO of Voxhub and 2014 ITSPA Council member.

Starting in, I want to say that this is only my second blog piece on (the first being The Smoking Rooms of Net Neutrality, published yesterday), so please excuse me if I state the bleeding obvious. Yes, I know this site’s readership is a refined audience, one with Gig connections, fibre thing, flashing lights and fancy equipment — the whole package — however I am aiming today at normal businesses that might stumble over here via Google.

I’ll try to explain.

VoIP is the most sensitive service that graces computer networks. It needs love and care to ensure that it performs as a telephone service should, for every call, over and over, 24 hrs a day. And to push it around, it craves low latency, as well as highly available constant bandwidth connectivity with reliable networking equipment. Ironically, for many VoIP is about saving money, yet the less you spend the less likely the chances are that it is getting the environment it needs. All of which is why you need to invest wisely to get the best from VoIP.

As a council member for ITSPA I can safely say that the vast majority of member service providers have invested well in their data centres and equipment. If you are a business that uses one of these providers and you are having quality problems, then 90% of the time (or more) it is your lack of investment that is to blame.

At Voxhub we often receive calls from people saying that they have poor quality VoIP from another provider and want to hear about what we can do better. Many years ago my first thought would have been that their problem had to do with their provider and I would have sympathised with them. Today, though, I go further and try to work out precisely why they are experiencing poor service. After all, there might be some underlying reason for the problems that we wouldn’t want them to bring over, should they opt to switch to our service. It never takes very long to realise that 90% of the time (or more) the cause of the problem is a lack of investment on their side, the most likely candidates being poor cabling, cheap routers, and single Internet connections that are shared between computers and phones.

Sadly, a lot of businesses don’t invest in their Internet connections for any type of on-line service from which they plan to draw benefit, so any advice I give from this point forward applies to investing correctly to benefit from any VoIP, cloud, or on-line service used by your business. Of course, I cannot say precisely how much should be spent, and I think that for the smallest business investing doesn’t have to mean spending very much at all. I would suggest, though, that when you invest you think about the following to help put things in perspective:

1. Don’t cut corners. Consider your goals and be careful not to erode them by being too cutthroat or going too cheap.
Service Provider: “We have a proven 4 minute abs program for rippling muscles, guaranteed.”
You: “Can you do it quicker? I have seen that available on-line for 3.
2. Put your VoIP outlay in context by comparing it to what you spend on other business expenses.
I know of a company that spent hundreds of thousands on fine wood floors for their new office and still took convincing to spend any money on good network equipment. If you have no problem buying an iPhone as a business expense then you have should have no problem spending half that on a router that is used by your whole company every day of the week.
3. Imagine you are investing in an invisible team member.
Everyone agrees that ‘Investing in People’ is essential for good business. As such, it can really put things into perspective to consider any Internet/VoIP investment you make as an invisible team member, a “person” who is relied upon by everyone in your business for all of your essential services, telephone, mail, administration, banking, security, and even employee happiness (if you let them watch cat videos and essential World Cup events). If you don’t make the right hiring choice you will end up getting poor attendance, under achievement…in essence, a “person” that lets down your whole team.
4. VoIP may not work on a network just because the BBC website loads quickly.
I am sorry to say it, but at some point the finer details become important. Working out what you need to invest versus what you have already invested requires some evaluation expertise. At Voxhub we take on this responsibility for our customers, providing advice, verified equipment, and testing tools for networks that tell us our customers what kind of performance they are actually getting.

Somewhere along the line you will need expertise and advice, whether the quantifying comes from your own team, your IT company, or your VoIP provider. Once you find the right source of help, trust them and let them deliver for you…then be sure to hold onto them and don’t let them go!

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Voice Technology Makes Conference Calls Sound Amazingly Clear and Life-like welcomes “VoIP Week” contributor Jeff Rodman, Polycom‘s Chief Technology Evangelist. Since co-founding the company in 1990 Jeff has been instrumental in the realization of Polycom’s iconic products for voice, video, network communications, and other media.

When was the last time you used a conference phone? Today or perhaps yesterday? For a good many of us it likely hasn’t been more than a day or two. For many of businesses today, open-air voice conferencing is as ubiquitous as the traditional handheld or headset.

To ensure maximum efficiency and productivity during conference calls, it is critical for the speech to be clearly understood. We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of struggling to work out what someone is saying, be it due to noise, their distance from a microphone, or just an unfamiliar accent. Our minds are good at compensating for missing words and blurred sounds, but the more time they spend figuring out what might have been said, the less well we understand is actually being said (as seen in this short video). Therefore, it is vital that the physical “what we hear” stage be as clear and as accurate as possible.

Five aspects of speech audio work together to make or break a clear, understandable conversation: Bandwidth, Reverberation, Amplitude, Interactivity, and Noise. These five aspects, taken together, are called the BRAIN model of practical audio communications. The job of any conferencing system is to tune and balance these aspects automatically to provide the best possible hearing experience for the parties on both ends of the call.


Bandwidth: The Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) most of us grew up with carries less than half the information inherent in human speech, and this shortcoming was unthinkingly brought over into early IP telephones. However, newer system greatly enhance intelligibility through the implementation of HD Voice, making conversation much easier to follow and less fatiguing. The standards-compliant IP phones and conference phones that deliver this much higher audio bandwidth offer amazing clarity that rivals the best video systems, making it seem that you are in the same room as those on the other end of the call

Reverberation: Room echo at either end of a phone conversation makes the sound die down more slowly, thus smearing words together. While a “perfect” solution would include acoustic wall coverings for absorption, wall-mounted diffuser panels, and a personal headset or lapel mics for every participant, the reverberation problem is much more easily addressed via a multiple-microphone conferencing system that can intelligently steer and focus the pickup patterns to dynamically match the location of each talker in a room.

Amplitude: Insufficient amplitude, or loudness, can make it difficult to hear a talker. Repositioning the talker and listener are obvious solutions, but are not always practical. Conference phones are available, though, that can automatically adjust microphone gain to greatly help in these situations, and the difference in ease of understanding can be breathtaking.

Interaction: Interactive speech between distant groups can be difficult to conduct for a number of reasons, due in no small part to the absence of a true full-duplex system that allows for transparent interactive speech. A conference phone with good full-duplex technology enables talkers at both ends to be heard clearly without any delays or distractions. Beware, though, as although many speakerphones today lay claim full-duplex performance it is a very sophisticated feature that few can actually deliver.

Noise: Common noise sources share much of the same spectrum with speech and can make it difficult to understand conversations. First, try to fix noise at the source. Move the microphones farther from air conditioner ducts, overhead projectors, coffee makers, and so on. There will always be residual noise, of course, but the HD Voice technology found in high quality conference phones eliminates traditional clicking, buzzing, hissing, and other noise artefacts, and can thus make a big difference in ensuring that the voices of all participants on the conference call are clearly heard in spite of any acoustic challenges in the room.

So the next time you plan or join a conference call, consider the elements of the BRAIN model. Remember that they work together: each BRAIN component can compensate for deficiencies in others, which can be very important as some are much easier to address than others (consider the cost and difficulty of soundproofing a room compared to simply slipping in a better IP speakerphone with HD Voice and steered microphones, for example). You can learn more about the BRAIN model from Polycom’s The “BRAIN” Model of Intelligibility in Business Telephony whitepaper.

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The Conception and Birth of a New IP Handset welcomes John Bennett, Managing Director snom UK Ltd

There are five mainstream manufacturers of IP handsets active in the world today, and for the business client, service provider or reseller seeking to select a handset supplier it can be difficult to evaluate the differences amongst them. Price is an obvious criteria but that reveals little about the expected handset life, quality of voice and the durability or usability of the handset, all of which contributes to the user satisfaction and the lifetime cost of the handset. Two reliable options for evaluation are (1) references from existing users, and (2) a good look at the manufacturing process.

A reliable quality manufacturer will operate an in-house research and development team. Interoperability and the ability to work with a very broad range of PBX and hosted service providers on the market are absolutely key in the specification of IP handsets.


The design, development and manufacturing guidelines for IP handsets are quality, security, interoperability, a practical and aesthetically pleasing design, and inclusion of features that meet the needs of modern communications. Products must be stable, functional, efficient, durable, and must provide a quality in which customers can have confidence.

Defining the Designer Baby

The starting point for any new handset development is with the customer, customer feedback is key to understanding what is working, what is not, and what is needed, what is liked or disliked. It is particularly important to understand the end user experience both for handset use and from a deployment and manageability point of view. A good way to develop such understanding is to process and analyse any returns or repairs working in close collaboration with development and production teams. This has an immediate benefit for the customer as minor modifications can be quickly integrated into production. It is perhaps even more important in that a constant and systematic analysis of complaints and faults allows companies to produce reports and identify trends and issues, thus allowing for continuous product quality improvement and the development of new devices that meet customers’ requirements and deliver high levels of reliably in the long-term.

It is also important to track the changing technology trends to ensure that handsets meet tomorrow’s needs as well as today’s, and to take into account the need to easily adopt new technologies into the business. In today’s business world, key capabilities are remote provisioning, support for virtual private networks (VPN), CTI solutions and integration with Microsoft Lync.

Once the specification is agreed to the next stage is the prototype build followed by market testing. Manufacturers should maintain a close relationship with key end customers that allows for market testing of new handsets, to establish they are not only fit for purpose but that they provide customers with a solution that will excite and motivate them to continue to buy their product.

The standards of the tests to which a manufacturer will submit their products are another key indicator of handset quality. Manufacturers should have very strict criteria, and before approving a handset to move to full production the phone must successfully pass various drop tests and tests on the electrical interface. One characteristic that is of particularly importance is maintaining highest standards of audio quality, not just at first production but on-going as the handset will likely be exposed to heavy use for five years or more. Products should be regularly subjected to audio tests and careful measurements taken to determine and resolve audio deterioration.

Product Birth is only the Beginning

Once the prototype has been approved the manufacturing process goes ahead full steam. Material selection and build quality has an effect on both the audio quality and the durability of a telephone handset. Developers should continuously monitor the production process, and handsets should be spot tested to ensure that quality standards are met. During the production not only should the operational performance of the handset be monitored and tested, but also the entire response frequency of each phone. The smallest difference in build quality can adversely affect the phone quality, and this can involve anything from build impacting on the audio quality to introduction of a specialist coating that prevents the discoloration of handset keys and ensures the handset durability.

Regular analysis and systematic review of problems or complaints can ensure that product quality is maintained and improved to effectively meet user needs.

So what should you look for when evaluating IP hone handsets? I recommend you consider the need for in-house testing and fault evaluation and feedback, a process of continual improvement rather than a throw-and-replace approach, and a controlled and monitored manufacturing process, all of which will ensure a high quality and durable solution.

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Ten Years of VoIP – Happy Birthday! welcomes VoIP Week guest contributor Colin Duffy, CEO of Voipfone and ITSPA Council member

ITSPA and Voipfone are both 10 years old this year so perhaps it’s a good time to look back at how the industry has developed.

Back in 2004, VoIP was just becoming sexy; Skype had made a big impact on international telephony revenues and was in the public eye — particularly amongst students and those with family overseas. Perhaps more importantly for the industry in general, though, was the acceptance of two technologies: SIP (Session Initiation Protocol, which has become the international standard for VoIP telephony) and Asterisk (the brilliant open source PBX software that allowed anybody to build a telephone switchboard either for their own office use or as a Hosted Service Provider). The combination of these two technologies has efficiently killed the old TDM-based PBX and is well on the way to killing ISDN circuits.

Of course, VoIP couldn’t have been as successful as it has become if it wasn’t for the growth in broadband provision to home and office. In the early days, ITSPA was concerned that the entire industry would be strangled if the Internet Service Providers blocked VoIP, and net neutrality was a much-discussed issue. As it turned out it, ISPs have not stood in the way of VoIP and the two industries have learned to live together fairly peaceably, give or take a few issues surrounding the routers of end-users. Now, the main net neutrality issues correlate to the mobile networks, some of which are grimly determined to keep VoIP off their networks, despite advertising the Internet as a main selling point. (The Internet minus some of the services that the Internet provides is not, in my view, the Internet, it’s Internet Light.)

We also dealt with VoIP regulation worries. Ofcom seemed determined to treat VoIP as something requiring separate legislation, in a ‘there be dragons’ sort of way, whereas ITSPA took the view that this was not necessary. ITSPA lost that argument, however, and — in one of the strangest of many strange meeting I’ve had with Ofcom — we managed to convince it that VoIP Service Providers needed to provide 999 services. Burning grannies were a big thing at the time…

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Cisco SPA303 phone at @harbour_lights < the photographic evidence

As a wrap up the the name the IP phone competition here is the photographic evidence – taken on Sunday morning before leaving the Isle of Man for the mainland.

cisco_spa303Also a hot chocolate as served up at the @harbour_lights – spot on I say.



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ip phone competition @harbour_lights

This picture was taken at the @harbour_lights caff on the prom in Peel IoM. It shows a traditional seaside cafe but with a twist. The @harbour_lights, as regular followers of holiday blog posts will know, has free wifi and a Twitter account. It also has an IP phone which impressed me greatly.

There is a prize of a pot of tea for two at the Harbour Lights Cafe for the first person to tell me the brand of the phone and where it is in the picture. Clicking on the image gets you a full size version which should help.

ipphone at the harbour lightsOther posts mentioning @harbour_lights:

Images of Peel
A roaming a roaming it’s always been my ru i in
Happy birthday to me

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Android DECT VoIP phone from Gigaset and the all new R630 waterproof handset

Gigaset android

Android DECT VoIP phone by Gigaset is impressive piece of kit

Probably spent more time on the Gigaset stand than any other. Party because I kept bumping into people I know there and partly because they had a couple of great products being demo’d.

The first video is a demo of an Android DECT VoIP phone. It’s basically a tablet mounted on hardware that turns it into an useable telephony device with a DECT handset on the side. There is a wired version available.

gigaset_android_wall_mountThe phone costs £500 but you have to consider this in relation to the cost of a high end business phone together with the functionality on offer.

Business voip hardware

Time of Day traffic and the Patterns of Life by Colin Duffy

This is a Time of Day telephony traffic graph – I’ve been looking at them for most of my working life. For a normal business day they pretty much always look like this:

This is how business people use telephones on a normal working day.

They generally get into the office and start making calls at about 9am, work steadily up to about midday, then have a spot of lunch. They come back at 2pm and start calling again, then everything starts tailing off about 4pm as people start thinking of home – or beer, or both.

Telephone exchanges have to be built to cope with the traffic at the busiest hour of the day so since the very earliest days of telecommunications telephone companies have been trying to reduce the height of those peaks and spread the load more evenly.

A call at a peaks adds a cost but a call either side of a peak adds a profit.

As you can see, the network is doing practically nothing after 6pm

Engineer mobile connectivity voip voip hardware

Timico mobile VoIP app now available on Apple App Store

I started to look at mobile VoIP clients a good 8 or 9 years ago. At the time the handsets were near enough useless – battery life was rubbish and the processors lacked the oomph to properly run a SIP user agent.

The advent of the modern day smart phone has changed all this, together with years of development effort put in to improve the soft clients themselves.

Now, most of us have a VoIP client on our phone – almost certainly Skype, maybe 3CX, Bria or Eyebeam. I stopped counting the number of low cost VoIP calling services that you might use as the target for the mobile VoIP client.

Many desktop VoIP clients are not supported on mobile. So if you use MSN or Facebook or Google+ or Lync even their mobile clients almost certainly do not support voice but are just used for presence and Instant Messaging.

The dwindling list of vendors of Unified Comms equipment offer their own mobile VoIP clients, which necessarily have better functionality than those I’ve just mentioned from the major platforms. Ask Avaya or Mitel about it and they will proudly show off their solution. These vendor specific solutions usually use a third party soft client tailored to their specific need. Bria from Counterpath is one and MobileMax is another.

I am very proud to announce that Timico has introduced its own mobile VoIP client . There are some clear differentiators from the generic soft phones mentioned earlier and used with hosted solutions.

First of all the user’s account is tied to the employer’s VoIP subscription, so the desktop extension and DDI is the same as the mobile. The user interface is also similar to that of the soft client running on the desktop and is controlled using the same familiar portal. Mobile users can not only speak and do video calls with other users of the network, but are able the see the availability of others

There is more to the technology that goes in to making a successful mobile VoIP client than is at first apparent. A little technology primer might serve a useful purpose here. When you speak into a telephone you are using an analogue broadcast service, i.e. your voice. In order to get to the telephone at the far end this analogue signal is converted into data packets (i.e. digitised) and then transmitted using computer networking technology, in our case Internet Protocol and the layers of networking technologies that come under its umbrella.

The sent packets have to traverse a number of hurdles in the guise of different networks and routers before arriving at their intended destination (next door, Australia – anywhere connected to the internet). Voice is very time sensitive. You really notice the difference if there is a delay between the person at the other end speaking and you hearing it, and vice versa. Slow or poor quality hops in the network can affect the quality of the user experience.

Use of mobile networks for VoIP transmission comes with its own specific issues. 3G is a notoriously latency ridden data service and a number of mobile operators actually block VoIP services (although they are far from transparent in their approach to this). It is too early to assess the practical usability of 4G because there is only one service provider in the market and that network will be only lightly used. The issue of cost of bandwidth over a mobile carrier network has also historically made VoIP impracticable in many cases.

WiFi is the sensible alternative. Although even WiFi comes with its own issues with Ethernet style best efforts transmission. Packets that collide with other packets don’t arrive at their destination. The busier the local WiFi network, the more likely you are to suffer from poor quality voice.

In practical terms this is likely to mean if you are sitting in an office with many hot desks where WiFi is the principal means of connecting to corporate resources, then that network is likely to become congested. This congestion may not be particularly noticeable to laptop users just doing emails or general web use.

A congested WiFi network that is ok for most uses might not be good for VoIP. In an office environment this can be engineered around, by creating more cells/hotspots each with fewer users. At home there is far less likely to be a problem although VoIP packets in this scenario are more likely to be using the open internet for transmission.

A VoIP phone is actually a computer that looks like a phone. Fortunately the lost packet compensation and packet processing techniques used in modern mobile VoIP clients (smart phones/computers) are able to overcome many “noisy” environmental scenarios, or at least go a long way towards mitigating their effects.

Timico’s announcement today comes after some time working with partners (Genband) to develop the soft-client. The app is available on the Apple App Store  to existing (and new!) Timico VoIP customers and is a piece of cake to install – use of our Mobile Endpoint Provisioning (MEP) portal means all the user has to do is enter a username and password and they are up and running.

The MEP is worth further mention. With the MEP comes the ability to change mobile client settings on-the-fly which provides the Timico operations team with a critical tool for managing your mobile VoIP solution in near real time. There are over 200+ settings that the MEP controls, including default codec selection, NAT traversal settings and the keep-alive timer value.

There are often deployments where we might initially need to make adjustments to these settings to suit the environment in which you use the service. We can do this transparently and without requiring interaction with the end-users.

Another feature to our service that is designed to provide the optimum user experience is our Client QOS notification. The mobile client analyses the RTCP statistics in real time. Should these stats fall below predefined thresholds then the user will receive a notification informing them of ‘network quality issues’.

I’ve been around polling some of the early users and got the following comments:

  • “I’ve ditched my deskphone and now just use the iPhone app”
  • “Connects very quickly”
  •  “I was sat in Starbucks in Canada and used it to call the office”

I’m sure that I will have previously mentioned that last year we won the ITSPA Award for the best Enterprise Unified Comms service. This mobile client adds nicely to that existing feature-rich service set. It’s going to be a terrific tool for people who need to make calls out of the office but don’t want to pay extortionate roaming charges or use their own phones.

Because the VoIP service is tied to their company’s business account then all calls just appear on the standard monthly bill. Calls to other internal VoIP users are of course free.

So there we have it. The mobile VoIP client has finally come into the world of reliable, serious business strength communications. If you want to try the service check it out here .  Press release yurr1.

1 note South Walian accent

Business video voip voip hardware

I have seen the light, opened the door and been let in by ProTalk

Protalk SIP based door entry systemI love it when our engineers come up to me and say “want to see something interesting?”. Today one of our top VoIP engineers showed me the ProTalk IP (SIP) antivandal door entry unit.  This is a rock solid door entry system controlled by SIP video phone.

Pressing the button initiates a sip call to the number / call group of your choice, sets up a video call upon being answeredProTalk SIP door entry system from ProVu and allows the operator to open the door remotely by keying in a prearranged number.  The system will in theory work with any SIP video phone – we have tested it with the SNOM 8xx series and a number of soft clients.

It should even work on mobile SIP clients – any SIP phone that can generate a DTMF tone. At Timico it is being tested as part of the security for the new data centre but it is easy to imagine it being used in many application areas.

I could even envisage using it at home – kids forget their key and you not in the house? They push the button and you answer on your smart phone and let them in.

ProTalk is a product of ProVu communications in Huddersfield.  They are good lads and worth taking a look at.

Isn’t technology marvelous!

End User voip voip hardware

SPA525G VoIP phone by Cisco gets thumbs up

Cisco SPA525G VoIP phone gets thumbs up – find out why.

The SPA525G VOIP phone is the flagship model in Cisco’s small business range of IP phones. takes it on a road test, kicks the tyres and gives an opinion.

Look & Feel

Cisco SPA525G phone
Cisco SPA525G phone with colour display

If you think the SPA525G VoIP phone looks familiar it’s because this phone and the other models in the range are the direct replacements for the popular SPA900 series, inherited by Cisco as part of the Linksys acquisition in 2003.

There is, however, a considerable uplift in the quality of plastics used throughout and the receiver itself appears to be lifted directly from Cisco’s higher priced 7900 range.

The general impression is of a very solid device that will survive the rigours of office life for many years to come.

Once you power the unit up you can admire the full colour screen which you only get on the 525G. The other models in the range make do with a monochrome display. You can set the background image from a number of pre-loaded files or import one of your own by using the integrated USB

Business voip hardware

Interview with Dean Elwood of

deanelwoodDean Elwood runs the industry leading website Over the 6 years this has been going Dean has come into contact with most of the major thought leaders in the communications space. He has also seen many of the new developments in VoIP play out in the form of discussion and comment on the website’s forum which has given him an unique insight into the workings of the VoIP industry.

TD I understand that for many of us there was life before VoIP and that you were in the legal profession. How did this enormous career step change come about?

DE Organically. 16 years of corporate law has its way of taking toll on you. I always maintained an interest in technology and looking back that’s really where my heart was. The defining moment happened in 2000 when I originally built a GSM conferencing system for two-way radio. VoIP User came about because of that in 2003.

TD VoIP has gone from being in the domain of the technology enthusiast (quite a long time ago now) to being mainstream. Has the growth in subscribers reflected this and how has the nature of the discussion topics changed in this time?

DE That’s an interesting question and one I re-visit myself from time to time. VoIP User has experienced a growth rate average of 50 new members/subscribers per day and it has not deviated from that in 6 years. It’s still the same as it was at day one. I’m not sure I can explain the reason why, other than to say that I feel VoIP User is an attraction to the early adopter and this maybe represents the rate of growth in the early adopter space.

We have noticed a change in the discussion topics to more mass market type threads however. I’ve noticed that in particular in the business space – a lot more IT professionals realising they are having to become PBX specialists due to the fact that telephony is more and more falling into their remit. These days if you’re an IT manager, that will typically involve you in voice services. 5 years ago that was a role relating to PC hardware and software management. That’s a change which is very obvious when you look at some of the threads in our Business Forum.

TD Would you say that you had had a scoop of any kind on voipuser?

DE Several over the years, but recently as we’ve become a bit more mainstream we tend to get embargoed. I had the scoop on GrandCentral/Google Voice back in December but was asked (very nicely) not to publish as it would interfere with Google’s marketing plan. So I obliged which is what we typically do. We do not wish to be seen in the same light as traditional media – we’re not here to interfere with marketing plans, we’re here to inform users. So with that one we waited until it was public and then talked about it. What I did do was have a detailed piece pre-written and ready which sat on my laptop for about 2 months awaiting the go-ahead. I prefer it that way. Making scoops can mean making enemies of marketing directors 😉

TD In the early days VoIP service providers had pride of place at conferences such as Voice on the Net (VON) and would attract the attention of every single device and handset manufacturer in the world. Nowadays there are hundreds if not thousands of ITSPs and almost as many device manufacturers. Do you think that it is too late for new players to get in the game.

DE I don’t think being too late is the issue; I think the issue is understanding what “the game” is. From my perspective there are huge opportunities. For example, the compliance and regulatory space is wide open. Life is getting tougher on lawyers and accountants to produce audit trail evidence of conversations.

There are plenty of ways that a niche specialist could build a business in that space alone and there is precious little out there serving that customer base. I think a product that serves those specific industries and integrated SMS and voice call trails into existing systems (MimeCast for example) would do extremely well.

That’s a simple example of providing a solution to a very real-world problem and I still feel there is scope for that approach in this space. Niche yourself, attack a specific market and do it extremely well. Long gone are the days of wanting to be the next Vodafone or IPO or Skype level sale, but that’s not to say that there is no room left. I think there’s plenty.

TD What in your mind have been the major milestones in the VoIP industry?

DE I could say the obvious – Skype sale to eBay, ubiquity of broadband and of SIP etc. But the truth is I don’t feel we’ve really seen any major milestones yet from a consumer perspective. VoIP as a technology is still yet to prove it’s value in terms of offering advantages over TDM.

At the moment it remains an alternative technology for voice and that’s all (with most providers playing on the cost-saving end). It’s not yet become an alternative *product* in it’s own right. That needs to happen. That would be a real milestone.

TD What is the recipe for success for a VoIP business today?

DE  Understand your customer. Release products that are a direct reaction to their specific requirements or solve their specific problems. Don’t release products or buy other companies simply because your engineering department thinks it’s a “cool” technology.

Technology is meaningless without a valid product reason for its existence and a sales channel to get it out. We saw a lot of meaningless and/or cheap minutes plays in 2008. The only things that people will buy from you in 2009 are products that solve specific problems your customer or target market is experiencing.

Martin Geddes (BT Director of Product Strategy) is someone that understands this very well. His headline statement is “People are expensive, minutes are cheap”. If you can get an employee off the phone 20 minutes more quickly then your customer (as an employer) will be quite happy paying you 5p/minute more than your competitor is charging because the customer saves real money, not pennies. That’s where the profits lie in this business, not in cheap minutes. If you’re in the latter space, watch out for the price wars and high customer churn rates. VoIP as a technology is actually an enabler to doing clever things like call avoidance and dynamic call control and routing.

TD VoIP has come a long way since the beginning. Quality of Service has all but disappeared as an issue and we are now starting to see VoIP calls with much better sound quality than traditional PSTN calls. How much farther do you think VoIP has to go?

DE I’m not convinced that QoS has all but disappeared. I still have clients experiencing this issue today when not in control of the last-mile of connectivity (where most of the QoS problems actually arise). Timico solves this problem because you’re in control of that last-mile as an ISP, so QoS is something that you can offer your customer and perhaps it’s therefore something you don’t see anymore. That’s a good place to be in, but many are not in that position and have to look elsewhere for their value adds.

Moving further forward, I think hi-def audio is a good place to be in. That really makes a difference, especially in conference calls or when you’re speaking to people with strong accents or native language differences. The clarity of hi-def solves the problem of understanding someone in those situations. It is something that requires the support of hardware manufacturers though, for obvious reasons, to really come to fruition.

Most ITSP’s that I speak to really want to do hi-def, but don’t have the hardware support to make it possible for their customers. It’s a critical mass/chicken and egg problem but I do think that loop will be broken. Jeff Pulver is going all out to try and break that loop at the moment as you know.

TD Do you think the term VoIP has had its day? The world seems to have moved on to using the term Unified Communications and even this in my mind is inadequate as a description of the experience that users are going to get with new communications technologies and tools. How should we be describing this new experience?

DE VoIP as a buzzword and sales point has definitely had its day. If you take 100 consumers and ask them what VoIP means 95 of them will respond with “Skype” in the sentence. The other 5 are early adopters/technology enthusiasts. Skype achieved that brand position by productising the technology. Unified Communications is an inadequate expression only because the 95% don’t understand what you mean. Nobody has productised it yet.

If you say to an accountant that their voice calls can be logged into the same compliance system as their email they’ll understand the point and see the value to them. That’s what productisation is. I don’t believe there is any single expression that will make that point to the mass market. Like Skype, I believe this movement will be product-led and not technology or catch-phrase led. There is an opening right now for a brand to immerse itself into the UC space in the same way that Skype immersed itself into the VoIP space or Google in the search space.

TD We do live in a world where volumes are almost the be all and end all. Who do you think will be the major players in the global VoIP game. A couple of players seem to be nosing ahead of the pack, in the consumer market at least.

DE I only see one player ahead of the pack at the moment in the consumer space and that’s Skype. Everyone else, as Jeff Pulver remarked at the ITSPA 2007 event, is “just noise”. Whilst there is money to be made in the noise it’s becoming much harder in the economic downturn that we’re experiencing. I honestly don’t believe for a moment that many of the tech-household names that we know in this space will be around in Q1 2010. I still feel the market is wide open for a clever product play and I think it will take that to ensure survival.

TD You personally produced an embedded client for Truphone for Facebook. Where else are we likely to see such clients and will we recognize them as such? Is the VoIP enabled fridge any nearer happening (it being one of the trendy futuristic uses of VoIP for almost the whole 10 years I have been in the industry).

As soon as the VoIP enabled fridge is available you and I will be buying one, so there’s two customers! I don’t think we need to recognise what they are, as consumers, I think we only need to recognise value in the product. We don’t really care what’s driving it or how it works, just that it adds value somehow. If that value is simply that I can make hands-free calls from my kitchen then that’s great. That might be all that device needs to do to satisfy me as a customer. In that case it could be my toaster – we don’t have to stop at fridges!

I do think we’ll see more voice oriented applications within the social networking space and there is definitely an opportunity to be capitalised on there. Second Life is currently routing one billion minutes per month between its users, for example.

TD Where is it all going?

DE Voice minutes are a commodity. I think many business models exist with a long history that shows us what happens when a service gets commoditised so we don’t really need to guess, we can just look back.

Aviation is one such example. When you look at times in history when the airline industry has hit rock bottom (through price cuts in times of trouble), a few go bust, several consolidate and a scarce few do well. The ones that do well are the ones that are selling an expensive service with a value add. They rise above the commodity price by adding value to the raw service.

During a terrible climate for the aviation industry between 1999 and 2003 the airlines that did well looked at user-experience and made changes there. They did video on demand. They created rapid check-in processes. They saved you time (see Martin Geddes quote above) and gave you good in-flight entertainment which meant the time you had to spend (in flight) at least had some value. A good end to end user-experience.

That’s all they needed to do to pursuade flyers that it was worth spending the extra money to fly with them. They started selling expensive airmiles, coupled to value-adds focussing on the value of peoples time.

I see the telecoms industry going the same way. But while everyone else is jumping on to the cheap minutes bandwagon and causing commoditisation the best thing to do is the opposite. Be in the expensive minutes business with a value add and great user-experience that saves your customers more money than cheap minutes alone. All of this really just equates to recognising the value of your customers time and recognising that VoIP is a technology that has the capability to rise above the low-end proposition of cheap minutes.

Business voip hardware

Ideal mobile VoIP client runs on a Blackberry

  1. Runs on a Blackberry. In my experience Microsoft push email isn’t reliable enough and I am seriously thinking of changing back to RIM
  2. Can call using any available network – wifi, GSM or 3G – deally can detect least cost route or allow you to set preferred network connection
  3. Has the same inbound number as my work desktop phone so I can seamlessly take the same calls wherever I am – this realistically has to be a fixed line number as you have to be a mobile operator to do it otherwise.
  4. Detects the presence status of my friends and allows me to send Instant Messages to any network.
  5. Active directory lookup for corporate users to avoid having to store all the numbers locally.
  6. High definition voice codec available for use on wide bandwidth connections (ie wifi)
  7. High quality speakerphone.
  8. Multiple VoIP subscriptions so that I can have both work and personal services on the same device.
  9. Front and back facing video (I’m not sure whether I’m kidding myself here!)
  10. All the usual touchscreen/music/GPS/integration with Twitter/Facebook and other social networking websites gadgetty stuff.
  11. Unlimited battery life (hey – I did say ideal mobile VoIP client 🙂 )

If anyone wants to add to this list feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.