Trends in Technology: Voice over IP in Broadcast Studios
If you opt for the “less responsibility” approach, hosted IP PBXs are available. You pay monthly, and tell the vendor what you want and how you want it. As in the past, you are constrained by the knowledge, capabilities and platform of the vendor. The blank stare reaction is a definite possibility here. I’ve always opted for taking care of my own phone infrastructure; if you’re like me, you’ll choose to take care of your own switch, which is now easier to do than ever before with free PC-based open source solutions like Asterisk and PBX in a Flash.
Once you have end points and a platform, you must determine how you’ll connect to the PSTN. Hosted solutions do this for you as the platform and connectivity are bundled together inseparably. There are many methods for connecting to providers, including interface cards for PRI’s that plug into your PBX, separate gateway devices that accept POTS, PRI and BRI, and Internet-based SIP providers that will sell you outbound calling services (often unlimited) and inbound DID (Direct Inward Dial) numbers. It allows you to rent a number or block of numbers in most any exchange area of the country or world, and have those numbers mapped to direct phone extensions.
We’ve used many of these services over the past few years and found them to be very reliable and inexpensive, with phone numbers available for as little as $1 per month. A Google search of VoIP DID providers yields many choices with wildly varying pricing structures and features. We’ve had very good luck with wholesale providers like Vitelity, Voicepulse, Sipstation and Flowroute, among others. Most will allow you to test with them at no cost to evaluate performance.
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If you choose to use this type of provider, you’ll need to be sure that you have a solid Internet provider and that you maintain quality of service (QOS) to ensure that any other traffic present on the wire (such as Web surfing or email) won’t pre-empt the voice traffic that can’t be delayed. Some providers will install a circuit to be set aside exclusively for voice traffic use.
Internet service can be the usual T-1, DSL or cable-based services. Fixed wireless and metropolitan area networks (MANs) are available in many cities, and can be a very good choice.
VoIP has changed the landscape in corporate communications in the last decade. It's easy to install, cost-effective and powerful. Is it right for your broadcast plant, right now? Only you can decide, but the question is no longer if VoIP will come to your studios, but when.
Talbot is a product manager for Telos Systems, Cleveland.
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