A phone is a phone is a phone, right? Well, there used to be a lot of truth in that sentiment, but today's phone realities are rapidly changing.
For one thing, as they become integrated into the larger communications infrastructure, phones need to be able to support the requirements of other components. That's part of the driving force behind Polycom Inc.'s new SoundPoint IP 560, a high-end executive desk phone that, among other things, supports Gigabit Ethernet.
Does voice require (or benefit from) bandwidth that high? No, but, increasingly, organizations are upgrading to GigE in order to more effectively deploy bandwidth-hungry applications like video.
Now, in a typical VoIP-enabled office, there is a single network cable drop that connects first to the desk phone, and then, through the phone, to the PC. An organization making the FastE-to-GigE upgrade needs to get its PCs connected with the big pipes. If the pipe runs through the phone, then either the phone needs to pass the full bandwidth, or the IT manager needs to run a second cable drop to each officequite a costly option.
As Polycom puts it, a GigE-capable phone "future proofs" the investment in voice equipment. But the SoundPoint IP 560 is future proof in other ways as well.
HD ("high definition" or, in effect, high fidelity) voice is another trend that's catching on in the VoIP world, where there's generally enough bandwidth to carry a wider data stream. (TDM codecs and circuitry were typically designed to use very low bandwidth, and the voice signal was deliberately constrained to allow for this.) Anyone who's used Skype with a good headset has heard the difference.
The SoundPoint IP 560 joins several other elite phones in the Polycom line that feature HD Voice, which uses the ITU standard G.722 codec, along with Polycom's Acoustic Clarity Technology for noise reduction, echo cancellation, and speakerphone capability.
GigE and HD Voice are the features that are getting most of the fanfare from Polycom, but the IP 560 has got some other stuff that's really, in its way, cooler, and much more VoIP-ish.
Did we mention that this is a SIP-based phone? No? Well it is, and if you've been following these pages, you know that some technology companies are doing some amazing things with SIP. (Here, for example.)
Polycom has certification with some 25 "call control platform partners," including 3COM, BroadSoft, Digium, and Sylantro, who are making available an ever-growing number of advanced SIP features and capabilities. Along those lines, the SoundPoint IP 560 supports text messaging, presence, buddy lists, and web browsing, so the phone can take advantage of HTML-based applications.
Now that's future-proofing.