IP Phones Under $250: Value, Or Just Cheap?
by Kenneth M. Percy, Diane Poletti-Metzel, and Randall E. Birdsall of Miercom
Posted 11/14/2003; Published 6/2003



Delivering less expensive PBX systems—one of the great promises of IP telephony—means delivering less expensive phones. Phones are central to the economy of voice systems.


The good news is that IP-based PBX phones are no more expensive than they ever were. The bad news is that, despite more vendor options than ever before, IP phones will not commoditize anytime soon.


In a Miercom survey conducted in November 2002, we queried respondents (which included 15 IP-PBX vendors) about their IP phone portfolios. The average U.S. list price was $363, and the median price is exactly $350. Like anything else, you can pay as much as you want for an IP phone, but based on this data, the price of IP phones falls well within the range that enterprise customers are accustomed to paying.


But there’s a “gotcha” that the prices of IP phones don’t reflect: License fees, which can drive up the cost of the endpoints significantly. Most IP-PBX vendors charge per-seat fees that range broadly from $15 to up to $350, with most of the prices we obtained coming in at $125–$150 per station. So it’s possible to wind up paying as much for license fees as for the phones.


What are customers in for when they decide they want to pay as little as possible for an IP phone? To find out, we invited IP-PBX vendors to submit their low-end IP phones for testing. Only two vendors—Avaya and Cisco—accepted our invitation. A third, Citel Technologies, submitted a module that allows most Nortel digital phones to work with a 3Com PBX.


When it comes to low-end IP phones, expect fewer features. IP-based PBXs deliver fewer station features than TDM-based systems, and you get even fewer with low-end IP phones. These low-end phones don’t even have two-way speakerphones, for instance.


However, expect quality performance. And finally, don’t expect IP phones to get much cheaper.


About the authors:

Kenneth M. Percy is a technology analyst, Diane Poletti-Metzel is manager of lab testing, and Randall E. Birdsall is a test engineer at Miercom, a network consultancy and product test center based in Princeton Junction, NJ.



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