Intel's iPOD extends PBX connectivity with VoIP

Intel Corp. this month will release an IP telephony product that could put the power of a central-site PBX into a small branch office or in a telecommuter's den.

Intel's iPOD product could help IT and telecom professionals lower their phone costs by connecting small branch office and home office workers to a centralized PBX with voice over IP. Instead of deploying small PBXs or key systems in remote sites, network professionals could use the product to provide voice connectivity over a remote site's WAN link.

The iPOD - developed by Dialogic Corp., Intel's computer telephony subsidiary - is a small, rack-mountable device that connects to either a Nortel Networks Corp. Meridian or Avaya Inc. Definity PBX via a standard RJ-11 phone wire. On the other end of the iPOD is a Category 5 Ethernet jack that is used to bridge phone calls to an IP network.

One iPOD can be used to connect up to eight IP phones to a PBX by mapping each phone's IP address to an extension on the PBX. This is done either by assigning static IP addresses to specific phones, or by assigning addresses on the fly through the device's internal Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server.

By mapping IP addresses to phone extensions, any H.323-compliant IP phone (from makers such as Cisco Systems Inc., Pingtel Inc. and Siemens AG) can become a regular PBX phone extension, whether the phone is sitting on an internal LAN or in a remote location connected by an IP WAN link, such as a T-1 or ISDN line.

Once the iPOD is configured and mapped to IP addresses on the PBX-side of the network, deployment of the phones is simple, says Vince Connors, product manager for the iPOD.

"IT managers could just send IP phones to a remote site, tell employees there to plug them in, and they'd be off and running," Connors says.

Workers at a remote site can use all the features of the remote PBX, such as in-house extension dialing, hold, call forwarding, conferencing and voice mail access.

The iPOD was previously available to PBX vendors (such as Mitel Networks Corp.) as part of an offer for IP-enabling a legacy PBX. The previous version of the product could only communicate through proprietary communications protocols used by the PBX legacy PBX vendors. The new version of the iPOD that will be sold to end users communicates via the H.323 voice over IP protocol, which is becoming a standard protocol in IP telephony. The iPOD will compete with products such as the PBXgateway II from MCK Communications Inc., which can connect up to 24 PBX extensions in a single box, but at US$9,000, costs three times as much as the iPOD.

The H.323-compatible iPOD will be available this month and will be priced around $US2,700.

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