Telco Ltd. Blog

ESI Remote IP Feature Phone II: no slouch

Voice over IP, or VoIP, has come a long way since the early days.  Back then, VoIP phones in general weren’t at all tolerant of network issues, nor were networks as good at prioritizing VoIP traffic to ensure quality.  QoS, or Quality of Service, a term used to indicate network traffic prioritization, was nonexistent on service provider networks.  And most IP phones out there were difficult to set up, could not be easily moved from site to site, and had very few features.

What a difference a product generation or two makes.  Not only are IP phone makers getting smarter and more capable in their offerings, but service providers are offering more bandwidth and many are routing VoIP traffic more intelligently.  Sure, things still aren’t perfect, but for the first time, business VoIP phones are truly useful.

ESI (the manufacturer whose phone systems we sell) was an early entrant in the VoIP market (they were the first, in fact, to be able to network 100 phone systems together via IP), and their experience has shown.  Unlike others in the market, they have for a long time offered the same feature set on their IP phones as their regular digital key phones (and believe me, they have a rich feature set).  On ESI’s Remote Feature Phone II, which is compatible with any IP-enabled Communications Server phone system, you’ll truly be able to participate as if you were sitting in the office.

ESI 48-key backlit phone

ESI IP Feature Phone II (backlit)

ESI’s Remote Feature Phone II, while retaining the same form factor as its predecessor (which we like), has improved some things under the hood.  For example, it has become much more tolerant of network issues.  Not that there was anything wrong with the prior iteration, but the newer version is a bit like a car having better shocks on a bumpy road.  Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your network connection is as good as it can be, but much of the time we don’t need to do any special router configuration at the remote site for the user to have a good experience.

One thing that the Remote Feature Phone II also integrated was the ability to “plug & play” at virtually any site where there is a broadband connection.  In the prior generation, you would set up the phone and not move it, because it would generally take about an hour to get the phone operating wherever it was.  Not here–wherever you plug the Feature Phone II in, it begins communicating with the main phone cabinet right away, and connects automatically.

Another change ESI made was switching its codec to G.726 (a codec is the compression algorithm used to save Internet bandwidth).  I think this was a brilliant move; most other IP phones seem to be using G.729 or G.729a, which has a higher compression rate, and the higher voice quality of G.726 is noticeable.  While G.726 does use more bandwidth than G.729, it’s still much less than G.711, which is uncompressed.  Besides, provider bandwidth is increasing more all the time, and the 80K or so the phone requires (which includes voice in both directions, plus overhead for lighting buttons, updating the phone display, etc.) is very, very small compared to what standard cable modem connections provide around here (generally about 2Mbps upstream and 10Mbps or so downstream).

One thing I appreciate about ESI’s IP phones is that they don’t skimp on buttons.  I can’t believe that most manufacturers are getting away with putting only a few buttons on their IP phones (presumably to save on manufacturing costs?).  Sure, many of them try to compensate by having a larger screen and/or navigation buttons, but I have always found navigating this way to be cumbersome.  There is truly no substitute for having all the buttons you need for line appearances, station buttons, and feature keys.  I also note that ESI’s phones have tri-colored buttons; most competitors’ lighted buttons are either a single color, or in some cases, two colors.

Regarding features, I haven’t really delved into that in this post.  Features and ease-of-use are ESI’s strong suit, and their phones are truly a pleasure to use.  You can check out our web site to find out more on ESI products in general, or poke around in the other posts on this blog.

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