Review: Plantronics Voyager Pro UC Bluetooth Headset – Part 1

Preface: I’m taking a little different approach with this review. Plantronics offers the Voyager Pro headset in several versions; the Voyager Pro targets the common portable application accompanying mobile phones, while the Voyager Pro UC extends it reach to use with soft phones or Unified Communications (UC) clients on computers. Since these use cases might be considered separately I’ve decided to offer the review in two parts, one addressing each use case specifically.

PLANTRONICS-SAVI-&-VOYAGER-PRO-UCWhile I have tried a number of Bluetooth headsets over the years, I’ve found that most are seriously disappointing. Until relatively recently I had simply given up on trying to find a Bluetooth headset that would meet my needs.

In the fall of 2009 Plantronics gave me a Savi Go Bluetooth headset to use in the presentation that I was developing for Astricon. Given the project at hand I had some very specific needs, including wideband audio capability to compliment a SIP soft phone. The new generation of cordless headsets targeting “Unified Communications” application seemed like a good match for my needs. “UC” implies wideband audio.

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Junction Networks Launches New, Free VoIP Service: GetOnSIP

GetOnSIPLast Friday Mike Oeth, CEO of Junction Networks appeared on the VoIP Users Conference to make a pre-release announcement of a new, free voip service called GetOnSIP. It’s not often that the VUC gets to scoop the rest of the voip world on some kind of news, but since OnSIP is a long time sponsor…why not, eh? GetOnSIP certainly seems like a great idea.

GetOnSIP is built upon the same SIP and XMPP foundation of their existing OnSIP hosted PBX service. However, GetOnSIP is a stripped down offering that has a much sharper focus. Anyone can register an account completely for free. Each account is issued a set of sip credentials, and has a corresponding SIP URI. Once your SIP phone or soft phone is registered you can start making and receiving calls to any other SIP URIs.

The free accounts provided by GetOnSIP don’t require the use of a credit card, making them very approachable indeed. Of course, there is a limit to what can be done from a completely free account. You will not be able to make calls to the PSTN. Nor will you get a DID to receive calls from the PSTN. Even so, I’m sure that GetOnSIP will be a welcome and popular addition to the SIP user community.

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Skype For Android Now With 3G/4G Support

T-Mobile-G2-Skype-AndroidIn the recent past there was an issue with the Skype client for Android suffering a vulnerability that could expose private information to third party applications on the phone. This week Skype released an update to address the matter. That’s not especially interesting really, at least not to me.

The more interesting thing is the fact that this new release of Skype For Android now supports calling over 3G/4G wireless service. Until this release Android devices were only allowed to do voice calling when on Wifi networks. The exception being Android devices offered by Verizon Wireless.

In truth I’ve made little use of Skype on my phone, at least to this point. Limiting the voice aspect to wifi really constrains its utility. While in NYC this week I allowed my G2 to update its Skype installation and did a few cursory experiments with the new release.

I was happy to hear that the new Skype client seems to support the latest SILK codec. Calling the Skype call testing service I heard both their outgoing message and my own voice back in very clear wideband audio. I may yet run some test signals across a Skype call to get some measurement of what I was hearing.

I was also happy to find that the Skype client supports the use of the Bluetooth headset with wideband capability. This is in marked contrast to the release of Counterpath’s Bria Android Edition, the SIP client that I currently run. It simply does not access the Bluetooth capability of the handset. I must admit that I am at least one release back in Bria Android Edition.

As this weekend I am working to complete a review of the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC Bluetooth headset I tried also it with Skype. The call was obviously wideband, very bright and cheerful sounding. I tried making calls both on my local wifi and T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network. In both modes that calls sounded great. It will be interesting to see what happens when the phone falls back to its EDGE mode, outside of HSPA range.

It’s great that voice calling using Skype over 3G/4G is now more broadly available. I’m betting that causes a considerable uptick in the use of Skype on mobile devices.

LifeSize Passport Now Supports Video Calling Skype Users

LifeSize-Passport-300In a most interesting press release LifeSize has announced support for video calling to/from Skype user from the LifeSize Passport end-point. The new capability is projected for release in the coming v4.8 software. It will be interesting it give this a try.

It happens that I have a Passport in my home office at the moment. It was acquired earlier this year in the process of my failed attempt to entice LifeSize to join a VUC call using their video conference bridge. In my office the Passport is connected to a Sony 26” Bravia HDTV via HDMI. The camera connects to the Passport device via a Firewire cable.

The Passport is a small device. It’s small enough to be portable. I’m told that some people carry it around as they travel, using it over hotel broadband. The camera includes a built-in microphone array. The video quality presented is quite good, especially in light of the rather modest cost of the device.

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When The Wifi Blows: Experience At NAB 2011

NABshow_logoThe past week or so my attention was wholly consumed by the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. Held in Las Vegas each April the NAB exhibition is the major event in the year of a broadcast equipment maker. This was my 18th NAB, which makes the more a test of stamina than anything else.

Happily, the show was for my employer a considerable success. Attendance has returned to reasonable levels. It seems that broadcasters are feeling better about their existence. Globally broadcasters are starting to move forward with long stalled projects. New channels will be launched and existing services enhanced. It all bodes well for the manufacturing sector of the industry, presuming that manufacturers have toughed out the recent slow period and continued to develop products that improve the operating efficiency of customers.

For our company the one major annoyance of NAB 2011 was the complete failure of wifi on the show floor. From the last day of setup to the close of the event wifi was essentially useless. This was not a huge problem, but a considerable inconvenience. In our case it meant that the many sales and executive staff present could only access email via a wired network connection.

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Covad & AT&T: The Odd Couple Of DSL Make Good

DSL-ProvidersMy belief is that since your home office network is your network, and under your control, it should actually be more reliable than the network that your office-bound associates a) enjoy or b) suffer. If you operate from a home office on anything more than an occasional basis I think that you should give some serious consideration to maintaining redundant sources of IP connectivity. This is especially true if you rely upon VoIP for your office phones, as we have here for many years.

Redundant IP connectivity can be achieved in a variety of different ways, each with advantages and disadvantages. Performance and price vary widely depending upon the access methods available in your area. For us the best solution has been to use Comcast Business Class cable as our primary internet access, with backup provided by a dry loop DSL circuit from Covad.

It’s important that your two sources of connectivity are different modes of connection, in our case cable & DSL. We could bond a couple of DSL lines and achieve higher speeds, but we’d be susceptible to a single mistake with a backhoe taking out both of our circuits.

I’ve walked down the street, examined the lines and know that the copper goes south down the street while the coax cable goes another direction. No one silly mistake will take them both down.

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