The internet uses “gateways” to relay data over internet protocol. A VoIP gateway is a gateway that is specifically used to transmit and receive voice communications sent through voice over IP (VoIP).
VoIP gateway is a general term that covers a broad range of devices. Today, VoIP gateways are becoming increasingly popular around the world for their ability to bridge traditional phone lines with the internet.
How Do VoIP Gateways Work?
Typically, a VoIP gateway will be a router-like device that you buy for your home. There are hundreds of different VoIP gateways available on the market today, including FXS gateways, FXO gateways, or digital gateways.
Generally speaking, all of these devices use electronic hardware to convert TDM telephony traffic from the PSTN into digital IP packets for transport over an IP network (like your local area network – LAN). Communication can also go the other way, converting digital IP packets into TDL telephony traffic for transport across the public switched telephone network, or PSTN.
VoIP gateways work by relaying communications from IP address to IP address, or from an IP address to a traditional telephone circuit.
For that reason, a typical VoIP gateway is connected to both IP networks and traditional telephone circuits (public switched telephone networks – PSTNs – or plain old telephone service – POTS).
These gateways can be configured to access both the internet and traditional telephone circuits in a few different ways. For example,
- An internal telephone can be connected to the outside world through VoIP via the internet
- The phone could use the PSTN interface to connect to a telephone network, with IP connectivity to an in-house VoIP phone system
- Both PSTN and VoIP could be externally connected, like to offer a connection at local call charges to a remote call center
One of the most popular ways to use VoIP gateways is to facilitate long distance communications. For example, a PSTN interface may be connected to a foreign exchange station. When PSTN calls arrive at the station, they pass through a VoIP gateway system, helping to reduce the high charges of long distance calling.
Today, many businesses also use enterprise-grade VoIP gateways to facilitate communication across the Microsoft Unified Communication platform and other services.
Types of VoIP Gateways
The three main types of VoIP gateways available today include:
- FXS Gateway: For connecting legacy telephones
- FXO Gateway: For PSTN connectivity
- Digital Gateway: For T1/E1 connectivity
Both FXS and FXO gateways are classified as analog gateways because they convert analog voice data into digital voice packets (or vice versa) over an IP network.
You can actually have FXS and FXO ports on the same gateway. An FXS port allows analog telephones to connect to a VoIP gateway, while an FXO port allows POTS lines to connect with a VoIP gateway. Many gateways have both connections because they need to accommodate both types of traditional telephony circuits.
When you’re shopping around for VoIP gateways, you’ll want to choose the type of gateway that corresponds to your unique needs. Do you need to connect your legacy telephone to the internet to make cheaper international calls? Then you’ll need an FXS gateway, for example.
How to Buy a VoIP Gateway
One VoIP gateway supply store online claims to have over 250 different VoIP gateways available for sale.
How do you pick the perfect VoIP gateway for your business? Here are some things to consider when shopping around for VoIP gateways:
Configuring and installing a VoIP gateway is more difficult than many people realize. VoIP gateways actually have an infamously high return rate because of their complicated installation. If you’re not confident in your tech skills, consider buying a VoIP gateway from a supplier that offers installation – or at least clear installation instructions and good tech support.
Know which protocols and codecs need to be supported by your VoIP gateway. If your business has unique telecommunication needs, then you may need a specific type of VoIP gateway to handle the codecs and protocols. You don’t want to go through all of the trouble of setting up your VoIP gateway, only to realize that it doesn’t work with your existing system.
One of the most important codecs and protocols for many businesses is connectivity to the Microsoft Unified Communication system – which lets you connect to Lync and the Microsoft Office Communication Server, among other platforms. One of the easiest ways to look for this connectivity is to look for certified IP-PBX device. Non-certified IP-PBX devices are often limited in their connectivity to Microsoft Unified Communications solutions.
Consider the warranty period and tech support. As mentioned above, VoIP gateways have infamously high return rates. A good warranty period and good tech support will prevent your VoIP gateway buying process from becoming a nightmare.
Ultimately, VoIP gateways have allowed us to “build a bridge” between the old world and the new world: instead of relying exclusively on VoIP or exclusively on traditional telephone networks, VoIP gateways allow both technologies to easily interact with one another.
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