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3Com touts new business-class IP phones

The company announces a new handset that uses wideband audio compression to deliver better-quality voice calls over an Internet Protocol infrastructure.

3Com has bolstered its Internet Protocol telephony portfolio with the introduction of a new set of business-class IP phones.

At the VoiceCon 2004 trade show in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, the company introduced the new 3Com 3102 Business Phone, the first member of a family of IP desktop phones designed to provide better voice quality to corporate customers.

The primary feature of the new phone is support for the G.722 voice compression codec, which provides 7 kilohertz of wideband voice transmission rather than the 3.3KHz traditional handsets deliver. The handset also supports the industry-standard Session Initiation Protocol.

Because it is limited in capacity, the traditional public switched telephone network compresses the dynamic range of human voices and filters out high and low frequencies to produce a low-fidelity narrowband sound. As a result, it can often be difficult to understand every spoken word. Because they are limited in capacity, traditional phones will never be able to produce true voice-quality calls, despite improvements to the technology over the years.

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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which routes calls over the Internet rather than the circuit-switched telephone network, doesn't have this limitation, because the IP data network offers far greater capacity. As a result, VoIP networks can use wideband audio technology to produce better-quality calls.

VoIP has become popular over the last year, as large companies start migrating toward an Internet-based phone network. Large carriers, such as AT&T, BT, France Telecom, SBC Communications and Verizon Communications, are all announcing plans to offer VoIP service.

According to Infonetics Research, worldwide sales of Internet phone equipment rose 31 percent in the last three months of 2003 and could triple by 2007.

Large corporations represent an important market for equipment suppliers. Several companies, including 3Com, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Siemens, are vying for this business. 3Com is not the first equipment maker to offer these large businesses better voice quality. Siemens announced an IP phone last year that supports G.722, or 7KHz, and Cisco also says it offers the capability on its IP phones.

The 3Com 3102 Business Phone will be available in late March in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and is listed at $310.