Cisco unveils new voice over IP products

In what it called its biggest voice technology announcement of the year, Cisco Systems yesterday rolled out a dozen new voice over IP (VOIP) products and enhancements to existing voice products.

          In what it called its biggest voice technology announcement of the year, Cisco Systems yesterday rolled out a dozen new voice over IP (VOIP) products and enhancements to existing voice products.

          New software includes Conference Connection, an IP-based teleconferencing system and Cisco Emergency Responder, a component that allows public safety answering points to identify locations of IP telephones used to initiate 911 calls.

          Cisco also introduced new voice hardware components, among them the model VG248 Analog Phone Gateway, which enables companies to connect existing analog telephones to a VOIP phone system. Each gateway supports 48 telephones. By comparison, Cisco's existing analog gateway handles connections for four telephones. The unit sells for $US12,995 and is available now, according to Cisco.

          Kevin Witzel, manager of global network services at adhesive, sealant and coatings maker HB Fuller in St Paul, Minnesota, said in an interview Cisco's announcements underscore the technical viability of IP phone systems. Witzel's company has sites in Switzerland and in Texas running on Cisco IP phone systems, and he said Fuller plans to expand its VOIP to 30 locations by next May.

          The IP phone system at HB Fuller has been in the planning stages for more than two years, Witzel said, adding that the new system is expected to pay for itself within 36 months of implementation.

          High return on investment by using existing data networks for telephone services has been the big promise of VOIP. But until recently, reliability and quality of service have been major stumbling blocks to widespread corporate adoption, according to analysts.

          Joe Gagan, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, says one of the most important items in today's Cisco announcement is the addition of 911 capabilities to the IP phones. Cisco officials says the 911 Emergency Responder, which will be available in December starting at $US5777, can be set to simultaneously send alerts to internal security people as well as public emergency services, identifying the caller to both groups.

          Cisco also says it plans to offer a new converged network hardware device, the Catalyst 4200. It's a single box that accommodates data, voice and video and is a 24-port 1-10/100Mbit/s ethernet switch that provides a voice gateway to a public-switched network.

          The Catalyst 4200 is available now and priced at $US12,995, officials say.

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