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VoSKY Integrates Skype into the PBX

I don’t usually go for pasting press releases, but gotta do it every once in a while. Analysis follows the release:

VoSKY Exchange Adds Internet-Calling Connectivity for Remote Business Users,
Enabling Access to Skype from Any Landline or Mobile Phone
>
PBX Voice Gateway Brings Free & Low-Cost Skype Calls to Office Phone Systems

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL(Internet Telephony Conference, January 25, 2007) — Actiontec Electronics today announced a new generation of VoSKY Exchange, a family of PBX-to-Skype gateways. With these products, businesses can use standard desktop phones to make and receive free and low-cost long-distance and international calls over Skype, the world’s fastest-growing Internet communication offering.  The new 9140/9180 series adds remote access to Exchange-based Skype lines for users who are out of the office, other convenience features, and a new PBX connectivity strategy that reduces costs.

VoSKY Exchange is a rack-mountable, PBX voice gateway that adds up to eight outgoing Skype lines to the office PBX without changes to existing PBX or phone equipment. Multiple Exchange boxes can be set up in company offices in different locations worldwide to enable free calls between colleagues.  Calls to other Skype users are free, while SkypeOut calls to landline or mobile phones are charged at very low rates.  The system eliminates the need to use a PC and headset to make Skype calls, has a low one-time cost, and can pay for itself in a few months. Skype itself has no signup or monthly access fees.

New features in VoSKY Exchange 9140 (four Skype lines) and 9180 (eight Skype lines) include:

Remote user access, enabling employees who are out of the office to make Skype calls over the company’s VoSKY Exchange system by dialing the main company number and an access code. This extends a business’ Exchange-based Skype cost savings from in-office calls to calls made from any landline or mobile phone.

Global call transfers over Skype, enabling anyone in the company to transfer incoming landline calls to any phone number inside or outside the corporate office or to any Skype user name.  Calls can be transferred at no cost to employees in other offices equipped with Exchange or their own Skype accounts, and to any other phone number at SkypeOut rates.

Global numbering between offices, allowing businesses with multiple locations to create a global numbering plan which unifies the dialing plans of the different office locations together.  Inter-office communication no longer requires an employee to dial the full office number and an extension to reach a co-worker.  Instead, calls between offices can now be made simply by entering the global extension.

Line-side (FXO) connectivity to the PBX, replacing the trunk-side (FXS) connection required in earlier models.  This simplifies installation because it is more common for PBXes to have open line ports than open trunk ports, and it also cuts costs if all ports are in use by allowing the addition of line cards instead of more expensive trunk cards.

“These latest upgrades continue our efforts to equip businesses with the tools they need to take full advantage of the Skype products without changing their existing phone infrastructure,” said David Tang, Actiontec’s Director of VoIP Product Development.  “The first generation of VoSKY Exchange solved the problem of Skype-enabling the PBX, the second added a rackmountable form factor and extensive reporting capabilities, and our new convenience and connectivity features make it even easier to integrate Skype into the enterprise in order to reap the cost savings of Internet communications.”

VoSKY Exchange remains the only PBX gateway that has been Skype Certified.  The newest VoSKY Exchange products are being demonstrated in Booth 625 at the Internet Telephony Show – East that began yesterday in Fort Lauderdale.

Specifications and Availability
Minimum system requirements for VoSKY Exchange include a PBX with up to eight free FXO ports and auto attendant capability; a 2.8 GHz Pentium IV PC running Windows XP with 512 MB RAM, 400 MB free hard disk space, a CD-ROM drive and one or two available USB ports; a broadband Internet connection; and Skype Software, which is available as a free download at www.skype.com. The product is available exclusively through VoSKY certified resellers and distributors. For more information, visit www.vosky.com or call Actiontec Electronics at 1-866-341-3285.

Skype is not a replacement for the traditional telephone service and cannot be used for emergency calling.

About Actiontec Electronics, Inc. Actiontec Electronics develops products and services enabling consumers to leverage broadband Internet connectivity to simplify and enrich their lives.  Covering the full spectrum of solutions for the digital life, Actiontec’s products include broadband modems, home gateways, wireless networking devices, routers, VoIP adapters, and digital entertainment devices, sold through retail channels and broadband service providers; and the VoSKY family of Skype Certified products that allow consumers to make Internet calls anywhere and anytime, sold through reseller, online and retail channels. Founded in 1993, Actiontec is headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, and maintains branch offices in Austin, TX; Colorado Springs, CO; Basingstoke, United Kingdom; Shanghai, China; and Taipei, Taiwan.

I like the idea of integrating services like Skype into a conventional PBX. This isn’t their first iteration of this product. It’s nice to see they improved it by making it possible to connect Skype to normal PBX extentions.

The FXO (Foreign Exchange Office)/FXS (Foreign Exchange Subscriber) thing is somewhat confusing, so let me try and explain it in these terms: your telephone is an FXO device. The thing you plug your telephone into is an FXS port. If you try and plug two telephones together, you can’t talk phone-to-phone. If you plug two telephone networks together (or take your VoIP Analog Telephone Adapter from Vonage, etc), you can and will fry something.

To take what they said up there about plugging into FXO/FXS ports of the PBX, let’s just say the new version of the VoSKY product can “pretend” to be a telephone handset you plug straight into the PBX. This means you can treat Skype as a PBX extension, e.g. give it the ability to take advantage of internal dialing,  or to take advantage of the corporate long distance plans. Furthermore, you can extend the PBX to remote users connected via Skype.

What I think limits the appeal of this box is the requirement that a separate Windows XP box that runs Skype be used. It would seem to me they could integrate a PC into the box, making the box a little more expensive, but take up a lot less space in the rack. It’d be better if Skype opened things up so companies like VoSKY could run their own Skype client on their own hardware and avoid the whole hassle of running Windows.


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