Delivering Multicast Audio on IP Phones

This post serves as a place to collect information to deliver Multicast audio on IP Phones. The testing is done on Yealink phones however we will be doing required testing on Cisco/Linksys SPA series phones as well.

To change the format and codecs of the audio, I’m using the open source tools – Audacity.

The codec and audio formatting that work is:

Codec PCM S16 LE (s16l)
Type Audio
Channels: Mono
Sample rate: 8000 Hz
Bit per sample 16

Microsoft Team Phone System – Review

I’ve been deploying VoIP phone systems for over a decade now and so have a broad knowledge of many of the leading systems available today. Microsoft Teams is top-of-list for the most refined, easy to use, easy to deployed system available today.

The Pros

  • By far the easiest phone system to deploy physical phones on. Any user that can use Teams can setup their own phone because the phone interface is identical.
  • Soft phone quality is excellent. I’ve used a lot of softphone in the last 10 years. Teams is simple to use, reliable and the best audio performance available
  • Video Conferencing is top notch. Its easy to send out invites for a meeting and its easy to join from a request. Quality is excellend

Important Missing Features

To this point, we’ve been using Microsoft Teams Phone System for six months now. The experience has been good. There are key missing features that are simply not there.

  • BLF, Busy lamp field. BLF is a common and core feature of all other phone systems. It allows you to place a speed dial button on your phone to reach other extensions, easily transfer to other extension and most importantly, see whether that extension is on a call, not on a call or has a ringing call. This feature is simply not available on Microsoft Teams
  • More than one Direct DID assigned to a ring group, user, queue, auto attendant. We often have multiple phone number assigned for inbound number for regional reasons or just to park an un used extension for a vacant position. This is not available in Teams. Each extension can only have phone number. Full stop.
  • Routing calls from a ring group/queue to an external number. We often route calls to a external receptionist so they can be answered when we’re out of office. Routing calls to outside parties from a ring group or queue do not work.
  • No Dashboard for calls. Its common to have a interface to see active calls on the system and see who is talking to who. This is important for a manager or installer to keep an eye on the performance of the system. With Teams, there simply is no similar portal to see active calls.
  • Softphone app is awesome but a bit glitchy. When I want to dial a number, I click “Calls” then “dial” and when I go to the field to put the number in, the entire panel disappears and I need to click the “Calls” tab again.
  • Costs. In addition to the regular line and calling costs, there is a ~$10 surcharge on each extension with Team. Auto attendants and Queues also bear a “Resource” charge and call usage is also billed. In addition you must have a Office 365 E3 License which is ~$25 / month.

If you are considering a migration to Microsoft Teams, we would like to help you with deployment. We have experience with the various Microsoft Teams conference devices and desk phones and deployment of phone lines via direct routing or the Microsoft calling plan.

Not happy with your Zoom performance? Here are some tips to deliver better.

We’re now all in week two plus of our self isolation and working from home. Meetings are quickly shifting to online and from home and that’s not something we’ve had to do before. Here are some tips to stage a better personal Zoom studio.

  1. Dedicate some space to your Zoom studio. Keep it small and off of your home office work space. A Zoom studio doesn’t need to be more than a 4 ft x 4ft corner. The work-space is shared but the background is dedicated for your studio. The corner of a room behind your desk works very well.
  2. Cover up those bare walls with something interesting but not distracting. A inexpensive way to do this is to go to your local thrift store and buy used full length curtains. Curtains have simple interesting patterns and add depth to your studio in a simple and cost effective way. If the thrift stores are still closed, visit Walmart. Walmart is a great place to get curtain rods as well. When your studio is facing a corner and one wall has curtains. Place a simple book case in the other. Books are a colorful way to make an interesting background but you can also use colorful knick knacks and plants. Remember this is a studio and so this is not a place to store papers and other things. Walmart is a great place for simple book cases and shelves.
  3. Invest in a dedicated web cam and stick it on a camera tripod. Every laptop has a web cam and it will get you by. The camera angle is far from optimal and the quality is borders on acceptable. I recommend the Logitech Brio web cam. It has a tripod mount so you can get an optimal angle. Its a 4K camera but I reduce it to the minimum resolution. Because its a 4K camera, it has better optics and better low light sensitivity which makes a big difference even at a lower resolution.
  4. A better microphone will significantly improve your presentation. I often use a bluetooth headset for my smartphone, paired to my laptop. A wired usb headset is often less trouble. I recommend the Yealink UH33 for its quality and price point. A wired lavalier mic works very well as well.

The world has changed and Zoom calls will become a regular part of what we do. A investment into a studio today will allow you to deliver more professionally in the months and years ahead where we continue to self isolate and work remotely.