Nortel leads the way in VoIP applications that support teleworkers

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Readers will find that new applications and features, for conferencing and collaboration, are the area where IP-telephony is delivering the most tangible - and impressive - new capabilities to teleworkers. We found Nortel's current offerings to be the most developed and capable of enhancing the teleworker's productivity and environment. But competitors are gaining quickly.

RATING 4.3
 Nortel Multimedia PC Client v2.0 and optional Model 2004 IP hard phone connected to a MCS 5100 IP-PBX system  
Company: Nortel Price: $750 per teleworker site as tested. Pros: Low-cost, good-quality videoconferencing, useful collaboration applications included; best soft phone voice quality; very effective call routing and workgroup presence propagation. Cons: Soft phone, PC applications’ ease of use could be improved, background traffic consumes some bandwidth.
RATING 4.0
 Avaya IP Soft phone and Model 4620 IP phone connected to a S8700 Communications Manager-based IP-PBX system  
Company: Avaya Price: $1,400 per teleworker site as tested. Pros: Good soft phone setup for optimizing voice quality and integration with Outlook; slick real-time call routing between business phone, soft phone, cell phone and home phone; integrates phone numbers from browser pages with soft phone. Cons: Some IP-subnet limitations with VPN gear; voice quality much poorer with lower-priced IP phones.
RATING 3.7
 Cisco IP Soft phone SE v1.1 and Model 7960 IP phone connected off of a Call Manager v3.3.3-based IP-PBX system  
Company: Cisco Price: $1,300 per teleworker site as tested. Pros: Rich call-routing capabilities, via Personal Assistant; broadest range of supported security settings and options; efficient management of teleworkers’ VoIP access control and bandwidth consumption. Cons: Poor voice quality with soft-phone, especially when running low-bit-rate G.729 vocoding; complexity and cost of all teleworker components is high.
RATING 3.7
 Your Assistant v2.1 and Model 5220 IP phone, connected to 3300 ICP IP-PBX system  
Company: Mitel Networks Price: $375 per teleworker site as tested. Pros: No VPN box required on teleworker site; low bandwidth consumption but excellent voice quality with IP hard phones; nice Windows applet for monitoring and diagnosing teleworker VoIP connections; easy-to-use applications. Cons: Same VoIP and network settings apply to all teleworkers.
 
RATING 3.5
OmniTouch Unified Communications MyPhone v2.0 connected to OmniPCX Enterprise system
 
Company: Alcatel Price: $300 as tested with soft phone per teleworker site; midrange IP hard phone adds $485. Pros: User can switch from VoIP to PSTN during a call if IP link degrades; easy-to-use soft phone; good integration with Exchange and Outlook. Cons: Third-party VPN gear required; remote IP hard phone config-uration can be difficult.
Nortel Avaya Cisco Mitel Alcatel
Features 30%  5 4 4 3 3
Performance 30%  4 4 3 4 4
Configuration 20%  4 4 4 4 4
Security 20%  4 4 4 4 3
TOTAL SCORE  4.3 4.0 3.7 3.7 3.5

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Mier is president of Mier Communications, a network consultancy and product test center based in Princeton Junction, N.J. He specializes in VoIP product analysis and IP-telephony consulting. He can be reached at ed@mier.com.

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