Voice/data convergence has been slow in coming to the small office user. VoIP gateways and IP phones have so far been tools for enterprise and middleweight companies. Although there are a number of significant single-user products, solutions have been few and far between for the single power user or small remote office.
The Stargazer 1800
408-731-4567) which was just acquired by
(San Jose, CA 800-SEE-ACER) changes that by providing voice and data connectivity in a single box, with pricing and functionality suited to the SOHO and remote office market. The StarGazer 1800 is an ISDN router with extended POTS and voice-over-IP capabilities, a book-sized unit that can provide all the data and voice connectivity needed by a small office. Easy setup and configuration is provided by the
units web browser interface, with a serial-port command line interface available as a backup.
2B+D = A+
The ISDN capabilities of the StarGazer 1800 are standard and equivalent to those of general-purpose ISDN routers from Eicon, Allied Telesyn, and 3Com. The BRI port is available in both U and ST versions, although most small offices will probably want the U version with its built in NT-1 interface. On the back side, four 10Base-T ports provide enough network connectivity to let most
users dispense with a separate hub. Any number of network users can transparently access an ISP, a corporate network or both, via the routers automatic dial-up capability. Both PPP and MLPPP protocols are supported, permitting flexible and on-demand use of the B channels. Full support for corporate network connections, via dialup or VPN links, is also included.
The StarGazer 1800 does not yet support some of the more advanced ISDN features, such as DBA and AO/DI. Dynamic Bandwitch Allocation, also
known as call bumping, is scheduled to be available in the next firmware release. DBA permits both B channels to be in use for a data connection while allowing one channel to be bumped as needed for incoming or outgoing voice calls. Pivotal also has Always On/Dynamic Internet capability in development. AO/DI uses the low-capacity D channel to maintain a continuous link with an ISP or network to transfer e-mail notification or even the e-mail itself, without tying up a B channel.
These minor lacks aside, the StarGazer 1800 is a solid contender as an ISDN router and data communications device. Add in its voice capabilities, though, and it tap-dances all over the competition.
POTS & PBX Capabilities
Most ISDN modems and routers have two POTS ports with basic one port/one B-channel mapping. The StarGazer 1800 goes a step further and adds in a third POTS port and micro-PBX capabilities. Incoming calls on either B channel can be configured to ring any combination of the
three POTS ports. The three ports also can be treated as local extensions, with assignable extension numbers. (Calls can be placed extension-to-extension, but transfer of incoming calls is not supported.) The StarGazer 1800 also supports configurable speed dialing for commonly called numbers.
Although its not a full-featured phone system, the StarGazer 1800 and a couple of station sets may be all the telephone equipment most small offices need for day to day business and call handling.
VoIP & Stir
The icing on the StarGazer 1800s already delectable cake is the optional StarVoice VoIP capability. Calls can be placed between StarVoice-equipped units using the Internet or a VPN. A low-bitrate G.723.1 vocoder is used to provide a single 6.3 Kbps VoIP channel between equivalent units. The StarGazer 1800 does not, unfortunately, support H.323 or any other interoperability standard. Even so, as a tool to link one or more remote offices with each other or a headquarters site, the
StarGazer 1800 is one of the most cost-effective VoIP solutions available.
Retail price for the StarGazer 1800 is $495, and the StarVoice VoIP option adds $400. Several networking and security enhancements are available. There are not many devices that offer this range of functionality including simultaneous ISDN data, voice, and VoIP connections in anything approaching this price range. Any SOHO or other small office with a need for converged voice and data services should definitely take a
look at Pivotals offering.