Nortel leads the way in VoIP applications that support teleworkers

In this test we compared the telework offerings of five leading IP telephony vendors - Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel Networks and Nortel - under real-world IP WAN conditions.

IP telephony is extending new features and capabilities to mobile employees and road warriors, and revolutionizing the way teleworkers connect and work with their counterparts back in the office.

In this test we compared the telework offerings of five leading IP telephony vendors under real-world IP WAN conditions. We found that the vendor packages - from AlcatelAvayaCiscoMitel Networks and Nortel - vary in their security infrastructure; recommended equipment; breadth of new applications and features; price; and quality of voice communications.

How we did it

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Kudos to Nortel, the Network World Blue Ribbon winner with its MCS 5100 - a new SIP-based IP PBX and applications platform. Nortel earns high grades for its collaboration features, including videoconferencing, instant messaging, whiteboarding and Web co-browsing.

Avaya and Mitel also scored well. While neither offered as rich an application package as Nortel, Avaya's teleworker package delivers excellent call routing and mobility features, while Mitel's PC software included impressive call-handling capabilities. We also gave Cisco high marks for its call-routing capabilities.

We defined our review criteria in four general areas (see scorecard, below).

•  Telephony features and collaboration features.•  Hard phone and soft phone performance.•  Configuration, integration of components, setup and monitoring of teleworker connections.•  Security provisions for protecting the teleworker's IP connections.

In this test, each vendor first had to set up a full working IP PBX in our lab. Then they had to set up whatever remote-site equipment and software they recommend and offer for telecommuters. A Cisco IOS-based router infrastructure connected the enterprise IP PBX LAN with the "remote" teleworker site, simulating connectivity through one or more ISPs. A special simulation system, from PacketStorm, applied consistent WAN impairments to all passing voice-over-IP (VoIP) traffic. (See How we did it).

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