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What edge would Cisco have over Nortel in a VoIP implementation?

A comparison between the two telecommunication industry giants details what to ask about your vendor before using them as your carrier.

For our new IP telephony solution, we are deciding between Cisco and Nortel. We currently have a Cisco switching infrastructure installed. What is the compatibility of Nortel IP telephony over Cisco infrastructure? What edge would Cisco have over Nortel?
One advantage would be that you could utilize existing skill sets in IT that already support your Cisco gear to handle your voice applications. That said, Nortel also has a very similar interface and the transfer of knowledge would not be a huge jump, though would take some time.

One of the best things that you can do is have each vendor provide you with a competitive analysis. They would be happy to do so, and trust me, they have these documents. You also want to compare the features that you have on your current system to those provided by each of the other systems. If cost is a factor -- which would not be a surprise -- there are also ways that you can interface to each of these vendors using other phones, which may provide a savings.

It is hard to just pick one vendor over another with all of the variables involved. My favorite sneaky trick is to check each vendor's Web site under the press releases section. Find someone that installed the system a year or so ago. Give them a call and ask them how the installation went, what surprises they have had since, and how the current administration of the system is going. Ask if they had to reconfigure their network, as this is not an expense that would normally be included. Also, have each vendor provide you with an ROI/TCO comparison based on your situation.

There are several Nortel VoIP systems running over Cisco networks and vice versa. But you should have both look at your switches, routers, etc to be sure that quality of service will not be an issue. Finally, and this is really important - look at your cable plant. If it is faulty, it can wreak havoc on your VoIP network!

This was last published in March 2006

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