The new PBX is not fully shaken down, but I’m far enough along that I can offer some (provisionally) final thoughts.
Having an IP internal phone network and analog trunks is probably not optimum. To get all the advantages of VoIP, you want IP trunks. However, there are advantages to an IP local voice network:
- You can use WiFi portable phones. These gizmos are such an advance over to old radio phones that communicate with a base station. You can use them anywhere you have a WiFi signal, and they are small and light. The voice quality is great. Since all the base station does is charge the phone, you can put it anywhere, even where there’s no Ethernet connection, and you can freely move it around. You’ll want to keep track of the extension numbers of your WiFi phones so you can call them when you lose them under the couch pillows.
- You can move phones around with abandon. Old-fashioned digital phones take their properties – phone number, key layout, etc. – from the port on the PBX to which they’re attached. The properties of IP phones are determined by their IP address, or, if you use DHCP, by their MAC address. You can unplug a phone and plug it into an Ethernet port anywhere in the house, using switches and hubs at will, and it will act the same as it did before.
- IP voice quality is great if you specify the right codec. Since there are effectively no bandwidth constraints within a local site, you can spec a codec that does not perform lossy compression and has minimal latency.
The NEC PBX and the associated voicemail system are configured via a web browser, which is a big advance over my old PBX, which was programmed from a telephone with opaque numerical codes. However, the configuration program, while offering an incredible number of options, is not as intuitive as it could be. Still, it offers the possibility that end users can configure their own telephone system without spending hours poring through the manual or attending a course.
Altogether, I consider it the new system a significant step forward, but probably not one I would’ve made had I known that the IP trunking wouldn’t work out. Still, there are many advantages over the old system, and I’m well-positioned to take another run at Internet Protocol trunks in the future.