What is a VoIP Gateway?
VoIP technology’s roots can be traced to the first Internet-based phone calls. Since then, the technology has progressed further than ever imaginable at the time. Better security, reliability and redundancy have made modern VoIP the number one choice for business telephony.
Despite the advantages of VoIP, analog and digital telephony still has its place in many businesses. While VoIP offers a great return on investment, especially for monthly phone bills, migrating fully to VoIP isn’t always cost-effective or efficient.
VoIP gateways can be deployed to interface analog or digital telephony with VoIP resources. For example, connecting a legacy phone system to an IP network or VoIP service. A gateway can also connect analog or T1 lines to a VoIP system.
Scenarios to Deploy a VoIP Gateway
A VoIP gateway is necessary if there are analog or digital phones systems or lines that need to be converted to IP-based telephony.
Rather than migrating to a full VoIP solution, many businesses choose to keep some legacy equipment (analog or digital). A VoIP gateway lets the business migrate to IP-based telephony in stages, which may be more affordable than a complete overhaul of the network. The business can purchase a VoIP phone system or sign up for SIP-based service, while keeping the existing analog phones and fax machines.
A pervasive myth about VoIP is that it loses service easily. VoIP relies on an Internet service provider; if the service goes down, then so does the phone system. For this reason, businesses will keep a few analog lines connected as a failover system. Should the primary IP PBX go offline because of the ISP, maintenance or any other reason, the failover can use the analog lines to make calls. Certain gateways support this desirable capability.
Having a VoIP phone system on site lets employees make intercompany calls without being routed to the PSTN first. A company that infrequently makes outside calls, but many internal calls, may choose to keep their PSTN and interface it with a VoIP phone system. The gateway can perform this interface function.
What about keeping the legacy phone system? Sure, that’s definitely possible with a VoIP gateway. The gateway can let the PBX access VoIP resources. Combine the system with IP-based features like unified communications for messaging, email and video conferencing.
Analog is one of the oldest forms of modern communication. It is based on analog signaling, which uses the voltage of the line to produce audio. Sound waves and line voltage work together to create what we call analog signaling. It’s an ingenious idea that’s still heavily in use in paging equipment and other sound systems.
The problem is that analog signals can easily lose quality. Television static is the result of “noise” getting in the way of the analog signal. Analog telephony is subject to that same problem.
Analog is barely comparable to VoIP technology. VoIP allows wideband or high-definition audio transmissions for more natural sound reproduction. It also allows more information to be passed between the two ends of a call because the audio is being transmitted over an IP-based signal—VoIP literally means, “Voice over IP.”
The standards for digital telephony vary across different parts of the world. In North America, Japan and South Korea, T1 is the standard for digital transmissions. In Europe, E1 is the standard. For the purposes of IP Phone Warehouse’s customers, we’ll only look at T1 digital telephony.
T1 telephony uses either a copper wire or fiber optic cable to connect the business’ phone system to the service provider or carrier. A single T1 line can support 24 simultaneous calls or about 60-times more data than a traditional analog modem.
The world-famous Bell Labs created DS1 or Digital Signal 1. DS1 defines how data is transmitted over the T1 line. A DS1 circuit supports full duplex or concurrent back-and-forth transmissions, which is incredibly important to telephony. Up to 24 channels are supported by the standard.
Technical details aside, T1 was a revolution when it was first introduced. No more using a single analog line to support each phone. An enterprise’s phone system looked like, for lack of a better word, a huge mess when analog was the standard. T1 allowed the lines to condense and be more manageable.
The voice quality in T1 is not as great as it is for VoIP. T1 is also much more expensive than VoIP telephony or SIP trunks. For these reasons and more, businesses with T1 are migrating to VoIP.
Several VoIP gateways support T1 spans, letting the business interface T1 lines or a digital phone system with a VoIP phone system or IP network. Fully migrating to VoIP may not be entirely cost-effective to the business, or having T1 lines available may be necessary if the primary IP PBX is down.
Session Border Controllers
A special breed of VoIP gateways are called sessions border controllers, or SBC appliances. SBCs are popular with service providers and enterprises as they often include an additional layer of security. They should not be used in place of a firewall; instead, they provide a more distinct boundary between the network and outside environments.
“Session” refers to the call or interaction, “border” refers to the end of the network topology and “controller” refers to the administration of the appliance’s roles.
The reason that SBCs are deployed more often with service providers and enterprises is because they offer a more secure entry point to the VoIP network. Networks in service providers and enterprises receive more traffic and are subject to more malicious activity than a small business or home office.
The best way to troubleshoot your VoIP gateway is to contact IP Phone Warehouse. We offer comprehensive technical support services to help you solve compatibility issues, audio problems, network difficulties and more.
IP Phone Warehouse staffs certified engineers and technicians that understand the ins and outs of VoIP gateways and IP equipment. Our technical support specialists boast at least five years of experience each. No number games here! Only quality support.
IP Phone Warehouse can also assist with firmware updates and questions about your warranty.
For additional help, we recommend looking at the manufacturer’s website. The manufacturer will likely have an online portal to access help tools, FAQ and knowledge base articles.
Purchasing the Gateway
Browse our full catalog of VoIP gateways. We offer a large selection of gateways with varying interfaces and features, specialized for a number of different deployment types.
Questions? Contact our pre-sales tech support channel before you order. We’ll double check that the product you want to purchase is the right fit for your network and VoIP environment.
For VoIP service providers, contact us about provisioning programs and hardware fulfillment. Get your end users the products they want at an unbeatable price, and leverage our technical support too.
We also sell a number of VoIP gateways and session border controllers that are built to support your hosted VoIP service. All ends of your business will be fully supported by IP Phone Warehouse, which is an authorized and certified VoIP gateway reseller.
For Other Deployments…
Smaller deployments may only require an analog telephone adapter or ATA. An ATA usually offers one to four FXS ports, and might include an FXO port for PSTN failover too. Set them up on a desktop, plug in the devices and the network, and go!
A specialized PCI or PCI Express card with analog or T1 cards can also interface legacy equipment or connections with a VoIP network. The cards can be stacked in a server and replaced as need be. Some cards are modular, letting you exchange the ports on the card. This solution can be more flexible than a gateway, but might not offer the same amount of dedicated power or security.