Vendor Network Architectures Part LXI: Aastra Technologies

This firm markets a broad range of ingenious telephony hardware and software, with a focus on the needs of smaller companies.

By Mark A. Miller | Posted Jan 23, 2007
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Aastra Technologies, Ltd. is a Canadian company—headquartered in Ontario—focusing on communications solutions that support the small, medium and enterprise business communications market. Aastra develops and markets a large portfolio of networking products, with both Internet Protocol (IP) and traditional networking solutions that include communication servers, gateways, and telephone terminals, plus VoIP and wireless products. The company has also developed a suite of advanced communications applications that includes unified communications, web and audio conferencing, and contact center solutions.

Aastra markets its products around the world through a network of distributors, dealers, resellers, and telephone companies, serving customers in North and South America, Western Europe, and Asia. The company is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, with $142 million in sales reported during the third quarter of 2006.

Aastra’s IntelliGate Business Telephone System is the company’s IP PBX offering. The system is designed with a modular architecture, allowing it to scale from 4 to 600 extensions, and expanding in both the number of users and features, as a customer’s business needs dictate. All of the systems support standard voice communication features, and include connections to many other systems, including IP telephony, data networks, cordless telephones, voice mail, unified messaging, computer telephony integration, and call centers.

One of the interesting capabilities of the IntelliGate system is its support for SIP trunking, an emerging technology that is expected to replace traditional Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) trunks between PBXs over the next few years. As the name implies, a SIP trunk supports the Session Initiation Protocol, and allows direct connections between a SIP-enabled PBX and a telephony service provider's SIP/IP network. The advantage of SIP trunking is that call quality goes up—and cost comes down—when conversions between TDM and IP formats are eliminated.

Another advantage of SIP trunks is that they allow a company to establish a virtual presence, as Aastra calls it, in one country, when the calls are actually being redirected via the SIP trunks to a call center in another country. Aastra cites the example of callers that are located in Germany, who place a local call that is answered at a call center in England. Similarly, calls that are originated in England are also placed at the local rates, even though they are destined for customers in Germany. This process is possible because the company has purchased SIP trunks with a range of numbers in German locations that can be used for both incoming and outgoing calls.

Another useful feature of Aastra’s Intelligate line (and further evidence of their European presence) is their support for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication (DECT) cordless handsets. DECT is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) for digital portable telephones, which allows for wireless operation up to a distance of 100 meters from the base station. So, Intelligate has support for high-quality mobile endpoints built right into the system

Aastra has developed several models of their Intelligate systems that accommodate a range of end user capacities. The IntelliGate 150 and 300 systems are designed to support 4–20 extensions, in a hardware platform that can be desk-, wall-, or 19-inch rack-mounted. For businesses with up to 50 extensions, the Intelligate 2025 and 2045 systems are available, which all use the same components, easing the difficulties of upgrades and migrations. Larger enterprises, such as call centers, can deploy the Intelligate 2065 system, which supports between 50 and 600 stations. Other key features of the systems include a tight integration with Microsoft Exchange Server to facilitate dialing directories, a fully unified messaging system, integration of e-mail and voicemail, and an automated attendant.

Further details on the Aastra line are available at www.aastra.com and www.ascotel.com. Our next tutorial will conclude our examination of vendors’ switching architectures with some guidelines for those that are shopping for a new system.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2007 DigiNet Corporation ®, All Rights Reserved


Author's Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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