NEC to unveil hybrid PBX with enhanced IP capabilities

In February, NEC Corp. will unveil a new version of its NEAX 2400 PBX hardware that will offer IP functions the company first introduced last year.

New features include peer-to-peer IP switching and extended support for a mixed VoIP (voice over IP) and traditional voice environment. Bruce Grant, director of product development for NEC at its headquarters in Irving, Texas, said the enhancements are the result of better integration between the traditional voice TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) functions, and new IP voice functions.

"In the previous version, if you wanted to do VoIP, you had to translate from TDM to IP and then back to TDM," Grant said. "The new peer-to-peer feature eliminates the TDM part."

Brian Strachman, an analyst with Cahners In-Stat Group in Scottsdale, Ariz., said this should give a better quality VoIP experience.

"It takes time whenever you translate between TDM and IP," Strachman said. "That introduces the possibility of latency. Direct, peer-to-peer IP connectivity is a cleaner way to do VoIP."

Grant said the new product is aimed at large enterprise customers and will allow them to make use of any IP-based LAN for telephony services.

It can be used to extend VoIP to remote offices without a PBX, but those end-users will need a broadband connection such as DSL.

Strachman said the NEAX 2400 is still a TDM voice product at heart. "This is a hybrid," Strachman said. "NEC is essentially rigging their traditional PBX to handle IP."

He emphasized, however, that this was an appropriate strategy. "There is no reason to do VoIP just for the sake of doing it. NEC has a solid customer base doing traditional TDM telephony. This is a way for them to migrate to IP where they see a need."

Businesses with lots of small, remote offices might find this appealing, Strachman continued. "You could give all those offices four-digit dialing without having to install a PBX in each one," he said.

Grant said NEC's strategy is to end the debate about pure VoIP vs. TDM. "With our new NEAX 2400 you get to keep all your old PBX functions and still move to VoIP."

According to Strachman, about 15 percent to 20 percent of businesses in the United States are now using some VoIP.

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