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Conference Phones for Cloud Phone Systems

Posted by Gregg Haughton on Sep 12, 2017 11:16:34 AM

Bell Labs introduced the first conference phones in 1964. The Picturephone was demonstrated at the 1964 worlds fair and must have been mind boggling. In all my years in telecom, I have never seen a Picturephone. It was not a commercial success.

 

1964 Picturephone

Today, Facetime and similar smart phone apps make video conferencing common and nearly cost free. Yet, you rarely see business people using Facetime when conducting business meetings. Most business conference calls involve groups of people in disparate locations. Facetime is limited to two parties.

True multi location video conference calling still requires specialized equipment and fairly sophisticated design. We recently designed a conference system for a client with seven locations that needed to accommodate their board room, two large training rooms, and several smaller conference rooms. The system had dozens of microphones and speakers as well as sophisticated mixing and sound management software...not exactly plug and play, and not inexpensive.

For most businesses, live video is not necessary. Screen sharing programs allow multiple people to work on a document or share a presentation. They just need to be able to talk to each other and be clearly understood.

Most legacy conference phones work on an analog line or analog PBX extension. This presents a challenge when deploying cloud phone services. In order to connect a typical Polygon Soundstation to cloud phone services, you will also need to install an adapter to convert the SIP VoIP of the cloud system to analog. These ATA's, while not expensive, degrade the voice quality and prevent the user from taking advantage of the HD voice inherent in cloud phone services. 

Several manufacturers have introduced SIP conference systems. These are conference phones that connect directly to cloud phone services and leverage the HD voice and call processing capabilities of the cloud services. They provide exceptional call quality and are easy to use. These systems employ digital signal processing and advanced noise canceling software to allow large groups in a room to all be heard clearly.

SIP Conference systems come in many configurations to accommodate different size rooms, and varied applications. Many include wireless remote microphones, Bluetooth connectivity, and remote speakers. 

 SIP Conference Phone-1.jpgConference calling is an indespensible business tool. With the proper equipment, you can equip your cloud phone system with amazingly clear and easy to use conferece capabilities. 

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Gregg Haughton has been helping businesses increase productivity, enhance customer service, and lower costs for over 20 years.  

Business Phone Systems

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Topics: Business Phone System Conference Phones, Cloud Phone System

Business Telephone System Conference Phones - Part 2

Posted by Gregg Haughton on Mar 15, 2012 8:53:00 AM

My recent blog article on business phone system conference phones must have hit the spot because it has generated many questions. Part 2 of my conference phone system blog will answer some of the questions that were raised.

Q: I have a conference phone but the sound is horrible?

A: There are many factors that can affect the performance of a business phone system conference phone. The biggest factor is the acoustics of the room where you are using the conference phone. While conference phones have echo cancellation and background noise filters, if the room is an "echo box" the sound quality will be poor. Glass walls, large windows, hardwood or tile floors, and bare walls all reflect sound and will make the room echo. In our conference room, we hung a tapestry on the wall, added a plant and fabric chairs to improve the acoustics of the room. A simple trick is to put something soft, such as a cloth placemat, under the conference phone.

Q: Are there conference phones for my IP Business Phone system?

A: Yes. There are SIP conference phones that will work on IP PBX and IP business phone systems. Usually, all you need is a IP station license and a network cable in the location where you need the conference phone. IP conference phones can have better audio performance than the analog conference phones.  

Q: What if I need to have many outside parties on a conference call? How can I conference them in?

A: If you need to have many people on the conference call, then either a conference service or a conference bridge is required. A conference service is a hosted application that you subscribe to which allows many people to call into a single number and be bridged together. A conference bridge is an on premise piece of equipment that let's you bridge multiple lines. Granite can help you choose which is appropriate.

Q: Can conference calls be recorded to later review, or compliance reasons?

A: Most phone systems support call recording. If not, there are add on devices that allow you to record the conference call. The recording is a audio (.wav or similar) file that can be stored and archived, played with a media player, or sent to folks for review. It is important that you let everyone know they are being recorded to make sure you don't break any laws.

Q: Does Granite sell and install business phone system conference phones?

A: To quote a former Alaskan Governor, "You Betcha". 

I hope this post is helpful. Please keep the questions coming, and feel free to refer a friend to my blog.

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Topics: Business Phone System Conference Phones, IP PBX Conference Phones

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