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ZyXEL Prestige 2000W review

Verdict

Voice-over-IP using SIP has great potential, and ZyXEL packages it into a convenient DECT-like 802.11b handset. Shame SIP services aren't readily available yet.

Review Date: 21 Apr 2004

Reviewed By: James Morris

Price when reviewed: (£206 inc VAT); Delivery depends on reseller

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Voice-over-IP has been seriously overhyped for years, but products are finally starting to arrive. The potential savings of running telephony over a fixed-price broadband Internet connection are quite tantalising - Freephone for all, even provides for details on how to set it up yourself.

ZyXEL's Prestige 2000W takes the idea a step further by adding wireless LAN (WLAN) as well. It looks like a regular DECT phone, but in fact uses the 802.11b wireless protocol. As with any WLAN device, the first step is to associate the ZyXEL with your access point. A built-in site survey capability picks up nearby WLANs and lists them by SSID. You then choose one to connect to and either enter a fixed IP address or use DHCP.

Once the 2000W is hooked up to the network, the fun really starts. The phone uses the new SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) to communicate. SIP is meant to standardise IP telephony, so all manner of enabled devices can communicate. You could call other ZyXEL users, people with PCs and an SIP client, or even regular PSTN phones via a gateway. Although the latter would incur a cost, IP-phone-to-IP-phone calls would effectively be free, after you've factored in the fixed monthly cost of the Internet connection.

Registering the 2000W with an SIP server requires entering the SIP proxy address, and an outgoing one as well if the phone is behind a NAT (Network Address Translation) firewall. You then enter the phone number, username and password for your proxy server. After it's configured, the phone restarts itself to initiate the new settings and register with the SIP proxy server. You then place calls just as you would with any telephone, except the voice data is split into IP packets and sent over the Internet.

It's a very exciting prospect, but there's a slight problem: none of this is ready yet. We were able to preview the service with a UK-based provider Pipe Media (www.pipemedia.com), which will be offering a gateway to PSTN, but this isn't yet commercially available. Another problem for SIP is that NAT (used by most broadband routers to connect multiple PCs to one Internet connection) causes all manner of configuration difficulties. The ZyXEL is also not cheap, when you can buy a DECT phone for under £40. However, with Pipe Media offering calls to the US at 1.25p per minute, or India for 6.7p per minute, the technology has the potential to save money when it's up and running.

Author: James Morris

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