Rollout: Cisco Systems 7921G phone

The Cisco 7921G aims to make employees more productive by offering in-building mobility. Its new dual-band support means fewer problems with wireless interference.

May 24, 2007

4 Min Read
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When IT pros talk about mobility, it's usually in the context of remote workers. But what about employees who may be "in the office" but rarely at their desks? These employees can be reached by cell phone, but that means extra costs for the enterprise.

Voice over Wi-Fi (Vo-Fi) enables in-building or intra-campus mobility, and may be a better option for those employees. The new Cisco Systems 7921G phone, which operates in both the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands, leverages existing Cisco wireless and VoIP infrastructure to provide mobility within your enterprise. It has essential features, such as conferencing, call forwarding, speed dialing, transfer and hold, and supports XML applications.

SpectraLink is Cisco's main Vo-Fi competitor, with SpectraLink also offering a dual-band phone. In addition to offering a dual-band phone, SpectraLink supports SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), while Cisco relies on a own protocol. The upshot being that if your wireless and VoIP infrastructure is end-to-end Cisco, this is an excellent phone for mobile employees, though not a replacement for standard VoIP desksets. If your infrastructure includes more than just Cisco gear, however, you should look elsewhere.

Cisco CallingThe 7921G phone has many new features compared to its predecessor, the 7920 (see "New Phone, New Features," below left). The biggest change is support for 802.11a/b/g, which means that it can work in both the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands. Deploying phones in 802.11a gives you better performance in dense deployments and ensures there is no interference from microwave ovens and Bluetooth devices.

The Cisco 7921G compares well to other Vo-Fi phones on the market. While the SpectraLink 8000 series phone is dual-band and rugged, the 7921G offers a better user interface, making it easier to browse through menu options than on the SpectraLink 8800.

New Phone New Features

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The 7921G is also designed to survive a fall of five feet and comes with a carry case that Cisco says will protect the phone in a 20-foot fall onto concrete, making the case a useful accessory in non-carpeted environments, such as factory floors.

Cisco also has integrated third-party apps, such as Berbee Push-to-Talk. A new desktop charging cradle includes a full duplex speaker phone, which is loud and clear enough for conference calls.Cisco claims 10 hours of talk time, and 80 hours of standby with a standard battery. Our talk-time results were 9 hours and 50 minutes; other vendors promise no more than 6 hours of talk time with standard batteries.

The 7921G is also best run on Cisco gear. It complies with CCX (Cisco Compatible Extension) 4, a proprietary protocol that requires Cisco infrastructure. Also, the 7921G only supports Cisco's proprietary SCCP (Skinny Client Control Protocol), which requires Cisco CallManager 4.1 or later.

The Cisco phone can be configured from its keypad by using some simple menu options. It can also be configured though a Web interface, though it requires a USB connection with a PC the first time the phone is used; subsequent configuration changes can be made wirelessly.

The capability to use a TFTP server or a third-party configuration server for profile updates is planned but no release date has been projected.

The Cisco 7921G is $525. A standard battery costs $75 and an AC adapter is $45, for a total cost of $645.Arjun Nandal Is a technology associate at the Center For Emerging Network Technologies at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected].

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