The Cisco 1750 Modular Access Router ($4,000, tested configuration) is a flexible, powerful WAN and Internet access router that provides up to four VoIP connections. A $900 hardware and software upgrade lets the 1750 operate as a firewall and VPN access server as well, providing in a single box practically everything you need to connect a branch office to the enterprise WAN.
The 1750 is remarkably easy to install and configure. The unit works with Cisco’s ConfigMaker GUI configuration program, letting you create and set up complex network configurations using a Visio-like drag-and-drop interface. You then simply click on Deliver, and ConfigMaker assembles the necessary configuration files (in Cisco’s IOS command language) to build your network. You must perform the initial configuration via a PC connected directly to the 1750’s serial console port, but you can make subsequent changes over the LAN or WAN using a telnet connection to the router. Users may find the IOS command line interface a more effective tool for configuing and tweaking voice settings. Moreover, be sure you have the latest version of IOS (1213T), since the product has many voice improvements.
The 1750 provides a variety of QoS mechanisms including WFQ, RSVP, and CRC. These protocols let Cisco (and compatible) networks give a higher priority to time-critical traffic such as VoIP, resulting in smoother, telephonelike conversations. Our testing showed that the 1750 had very good sound quality under most network conditions.
The 1750’s rear panel has three expansion slots: One is reserved for an optional two-port VoIP card, and the other two can hold additional VoIP cards or WAN interfaces. In most cases, you’d install a T1, ISDN, or serial WAN interface in one slot, leaving the other two available for VoIP duty. A 10/100 Ethernet port and RS-232C configuration port are built into the unit. Cisco sells separate FXO, FXS, and E&M interface cards for the 1750, so you’ll need to order the correct card for your application. By contrast, the Nortel product includes all three port types (as does the Multi-Tech gateway). The Cisco VoIP cards are interchangeable among the 1750, 2600, and 3600 series, and the WAN cards are the same for the 1600, 1700, 2600, and 3600 routers.
The 1750 provides a set of front-panel LEDs that show voice activity on each port, but it doesn’t come with any real-time monitoring or logging software.
Though the 1750 is slightly more difficult to set up and has fewer features than the Multi-Tech product, it offers good sound quality and reliability. All-Cisco companies will find it well worth their investment.