• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

Alcatel IP-PBX

Jan 20, 20043 mins

* The Reviewmeister completes his tour of the leading IP-PBXs

This week, the Reviewmeister completes our tour of the leading IP-PBXs, with a particular emphasis on how these products can make life easier for telecommuters.

Specifically, we looked at telephony and collaboration features, hard phone and soft phone performance, configuration, integration of components, setup and monitoring of teleworker connections, as well as 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.

Alcatel says it has several new messaging and collaboration applications coming out early this year. But for now, we tested the features of its soft phone package, OmniTouch MyPhone. The software lets the teleworker closely associate his IP soft phone with other public switched telephone network (PSTN) connections, including cell phone. An impressive feature is the ability to pass a live call from the IP connection to a PSTN phone if IP call quality degrades.

As most of the teleworker calls we tested used standard vocoders and VPN tunnels, the per-VoIP-call WAN bandwidth consumption was similar across the board. For example, with the overhead of the VPN tunnel included, a typical G.711 call took about 105K bit/sec in each direction. A compressed G.729 call, also through a VPN tunnel, took about 46K bit/sec.

Call quality varied significantly in some cases. The soft-phone call quality was generally worse than with hard phones. Alcatel’s soft phone yielded fair-to-good call quality with G.711 and poor-to-fair for G.729.

We required vendors to deploy the security infrastructure they recommend to customers who need to support teleworkers. IP Security (IPSec)-based VPN tunnels were the choice in all cases.

Alcatel recommends IPSec-based VPN tunnels, but doesn’t offer its own VPN equipment. Instead, Alcatel certifies that its VoIP equipment and OmniPCX will work over specific third-party VPN packages. Because the vendor didn’t bring any VPN gear, we tried a low-end Linksys IPSec-based package under Alcatel’s teleworker VoIP connection. The Linksys VPN gear wasn’t on Alcatel’s list of certified VPN hardware, but it worked fine.

In the configuration category we considered the hard and soft phone options, the integration of the components, and the setup and monitoring of teleworker connections. We did not test Alcatel’s teleworker configuration with a hard phone, but the vendor does support a hard phone and soft phone combination. Alcatel’s score here was compensated by excellent setup wizards for its soft phone, which assures optimum sound and voice quality.

For the full report, go to