Snapshots from Fall VON, part 2

There’s been a steady march toward adoption and implementation of the SIP (session initiation protocol) standard throughout the VoIP universe. At this year’s Fall show, we saw some impressive manifestations of SIP’s “taking hold” in the telephony technology community.

One such manifestation was the presence, for the first time, of an Asterisk World subsection of the overall expo, highlighting solutions from Asterisk originator Digium and a number of its technology and development partners—including its newly acquired (and Asterisk-based) subsidiary, Switchvox.

Details on three of the Asterisk World exhibitors follow.

(Plus, we were sufficiently impressed with Junction Networks‘s, onSIP Hosted PBX offering—a platform built on Asterisk and other open-source resources—that we felt it merited an in-depth profile.)

Bring your own carrier: Voxalot
Another novel approach to SIP-based communications is that of Sydney, Australia-based Voxalot.

Voxalot isn’t just tied to SIP technology, it is SIP technology—to the point that it leaves it to its member/customers to find their own links to the PSTN. According to CEO Tony Mascarenhas, in Europe, where many carriers offer big blocks of free minutes, individuals often have multiple carriers.

Voxalot offers two flavors of voice service: Basic and Premium. VoxBasic gives subscribers a SIP URI and provides inbound and outbound SIP-based calling for free. It allows users to attach their account to one or more service provider plans for PSTN calls and set up rules for outbound calling. Voicemail to e-mail and global access numbers are also part of the package.

VoxPrimium adds a number of refinements, the most important of which is SIP “registrations”: association of a subscriber’s URI with one or more direct inward dialing (DID) phone numbers for direct access from the PSTN. Premium subscribers can set up rules to route incoming calls to any PSTN, mobile, or VoIP number. The cost for this? Depending on the number of registrations (1, 5, or 10), the service is priced at $15, $25, or $40 per year.

Through its sister company SIPBroker the Voxalot network maintains direct interconnects with some 2,000 other SIP networks, and has set up a system to facilitate direct numeric dialing between them. It does this by assigning a numeric code to each of the “outside” SIP domains. To make such calls, users simply dial the numeric code plus the specific identifier of the party they’re calling.

The evolution of Evolution: Intuitive Voice Launches Evolution PBX 3.0
We wrote about Intuitive Voice‘s Evolution PBX when version 2.0 was released, a little over a year ago. Last month saw the arrival of version 3.0 of the Asterisk-based package.

Like Junction Networks’s onSIP, Evolution boasts a highly evolved self-service Web portal where configuration changes can be carried out totally for free—eliminating one major recurring cost for businesses of all sizes.

Part and parcel of this architecture is the ability to provide unlimited extensions, voicemail boxes, and auto-attendants. Check herefor a complete features list.

The Evolution PBX is available preloaded on a selection of server boxes, as software only (primarily for resellers), and as an appliance (the PIKA appliance, see below).

Marketing director Zach Garcia pointed out some of the sexier new features in 3.0, including—

  • Unified messaging

  • Fax-to-email integration

  • Bluetooth presence detection (detects your presence or lack thereof in the office)

  • Dynamic call forwarding based on user-generated rules

  • Fast Pass callback queuing

The Basic software package is free. The Pro version ($699) adds office-ish features like hold music, speed dial numbers, and linked remote servers. Top-of-the-line Platinum version ($1,299) essentially throws in the kitchen sink—including the cool Fast Pass, fax-to-email, and unified messaging, mentioned above.

The main outlet for the Evolution PBX is VARs, service providers, and telecom resellers, which typically bundle a total solution.

A peek at PIKA
At last year’s Fall VON, we saw a prototype of Digium’s Asterisk Appliance, just being released to the developer community. It has since been adopted into the 3COM product line, among others.

This year brings another Asterisk appliance, this time from Ottawa-based PIKA Technologies.

An attractive, mod-design unit about the size of a small evening handbag, the Appliance for Asterisk nonetheless packs a lot of power. Fully provisioned with the appropriate PIKA modular boards, it can support combinations of up to 100 trunks and telephones.

According to PIKA’s VP for marketing and sales, Terry Attwood, the Appliance for Asterisk incorporates some features common to multi-line phone systems typically in use today, but which are absent in computers—and therefore in most computer-based PBX systems. These include power-failure transfer, audio input for hold music, and audio output for paging. Also included, for whatever use the OEM customer wishes to put them to, are an Ethernet port and a USB port.

“In addition to the flexibility offered by Asterisk, the Appliance provides developers the unique ability to private label the device,” said Attwood, “giving them the tools they need to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.”

As mentioned above, Intuitive Voice has already done so, making its Evolution PBX available on the PIKA platform.

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