• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

Nortel IP PBX

Jan 06, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* The Reviewmeister talks about the latest IP telephony gear from Nortel as it relates to teleworking

You’ve got teleworkers. I’ve got teleworkers. We’ve all got teleworkers. So this week the Reviewmeister talks up the latest in IP telephony gear from Nortel as it relates to hooking up those home-based employees.

We dialed in on Nortel’s 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.

So what features matter to a teleworker? We decided anything that enhances productivity, lessens the physical remoteness of the teleworker, or enables closer communications and collaboration with fellow workers back at the office was a good candidate.

Nortel’s Multimedia PC Client, with an integral component called the Personal Agent, addressed all these areas. Presence – where the real-time status of workgroup or department members are propagated to all other members – is well implemented and effective. Other nice features are call routing, which lets you define various call-handling responses based on factors including who is calling, videoconferencing, instant messaging and whiteboarding. There’s even “Web-push co-browsing,” where multiple remote users can concurrently browse the same Web sites.

In our testing, soft-phone call quality was generally worse than with hard phones. The mediocre headset we used for all our soft phone calls no doubt contributed to this result, but we advise readers to consider offering their teleworkers the option of an IP hard phone, too, even though they might use a soft phone.

Nortel had the best soft-phone call quality, with good-to-excellent ratings for both G.729 and G.711.

Nortel’s PC software is multifaceted and well engineered. Nortel’s VPN client software, which comes free as a component of its Contivity VPN hardware package, handles all security processing for both the PC with soft phone and an optional, attached IP hard phone, rather than having a VPN box handle it. In addition to the soft phone, Nortel’s PC software package, called the Multimedia PC Client v2.0, also includes the smarts to handle SIP endpoint call processing.

So all there is at the Nortel telecommuter site is the PC – running all of Nortel’s client software and soft phone. If not plugged into the WAN link (via cable or DSL modem, etc.), the PC could be plugged into the switch port of the optional IP hard phone. In either case, all traffic between the teleworker site and the enterprise network is protected through the Contivity VPN tunnel.

Nortel’s well-structured PC software includes the video coder/decoder, and the bandwidth required for the video portion was in the range of 40K to 80K bit/sec.

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