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Cisco Voice Gateways and Gatekeepers

Cisco Voice Gateways and Gatekeepers

by David Mallory, Ken Salhoff, Denise Donohue

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Deployments of voice over IP (VoIP) networks continue at a rapid pace. Voice gateways are an essential part of VoIP networks, handling the many tasks involved in translating between transmission formats and protocols and acting as the interface between an IP telephony network and the PSTN or PBX. Gatekeepers and IP-to-IP gateways help these networks scale.


Deployments of voice over IP (VoIP) networks continue at a rapid pace. Voice gateways are an essential part of VoIP networks, handling the many tasks involved in translating between transmission formats and protocols and acting as the interface between an IP telephony network and the PSTN or PBX. Gatekeepers and IP-to-IP gateways help these networks scale. Gatekeepers provide call admission control, call routing, address resolution, and bandwidth management between H.323 endpoints including Cisco IOS® voice gateways and Cisco® Unified CallManager clusters. IP-to-IP gateways allow VoIP calls to traverse disparate IP networks.


Cisco Voice Gateways and Gatekeepers provides detailed solutions to real-world problems encountered when implementing a VoIP network. This practical guide helps you understand Cisco gateways and gatekeepers and configure them properly. Gateway selection, design issues, feature configuration, and security and high-availability issues are all covered in depth. The abundant examples, screen shots, configuration snips, and case studies make this a truly practical and useful guide for anyone interested in the proper implementation of gateways and gatekeepers in a VoIP network. Emphasis is placed on the accepted best practices and common issues encountered in real-world deployments.


Cisco Voice Gateways and Gatekeepers is divided into four parts. Part I provides an overview of an IP voice network. Part II is dedicated to voice gateways, including discussions of Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP); H.323; Session Initiation Protocol (SIP); voice circuit options; connecting to the PSTN, PBX, and IP WAN; dial plans; digit manipulation; route selection; class of restriction; Survivable Remote Site Telephony (SRST) and MGCP fallback; digital signal processor (DSP) resources; and Tool Command Languaue (Tcl) scripts and Voice XML (VXML). Part III addresses voice gatekeepers, including detailed deployment and configuration. Part IV is dedicated to IP-to-IP gateways.

Product Details

Pearson Education
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Barnes & Noble
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8 MB

Read an Excerpt


Cisco IOS routers have shipped with voice interface cards since 1997, and after this capability was available the term voice gateway became part of the VoIP vernacular, seemingly overnight. The voice interfaces allowed routers to provide a critical interconnectivity link between the traditional data IP networks and the traditional voice (PSTN, PBXs, and key systems) networks. With this technology, the industry widely built toll bypass networks during the late 1990s: Enterprises connected their PBXs at different sites with VoIP "trunks" instead of with TIE lines or the PSTN, and service providers leveraged IP backbone networks to offer calling-card services and cut-rate long-distance and international calling.

VoIP did not fascinate the popular imagination of the likes of Jeff Pulver of Voice-on-the Net (VON) and other industry observers until end-user–visible devices, such as IP phones, and IP-based applications brought the technology to the forefront. Voice gateway technology is still the pale sibling of the IP telephony world that creates no buzz, and yet it is also the workhorse of every single VoIP network. Even as VoIP endpoints become ever more prevalent in businesses and residences, voice gateways still provide critical interconnectivity with billions of traditional PSTN and PBX voice endpoints, without which companies cannot operate their communications networks.

Although the idea of a voice gateway is conceptually simple enough—it’s a demarcation between two networks and translates the protocols from one (the TDM world) to the other (the IP world)—the technology has become increasingly sophisticated and thefeatures more intertwined over the years. Choosing the "right" voice gateway and configuring the "right" set of features for a particular network is no longer the task for the uninitiated. The question I hear most frequently is whether to deploy MGCP, H.323, or SIP gateways. Cisco gateways are protocol agnostic and support all of these protocols and several variations thereof, and the answer to the question posed is not a simple one: The optimal network design depends on a large number of considerations. Some protocols and designs are better suited to particular types of networks, partly owing to the architecture of the protocols themselves and partly due to the features that have been chosen for implementation over the years.

A Cisco Press book with comprehensive coverage focused entirely on voice gateway technology and features was a long time coming, and at last with this book, the authors provide an in-depth look at the breadth of voice gateway features and capabilities, as well as providing voice gateway configuration guidance. The book explains the major VoIP protocols, MGCP, H.323, and SIP, their structure and operation, and the considerations to choose among them. It discusses in detail the PSTN and PBX circuit connection technologies and choices. There are often multiple connection choices on the central office or PBX switch as well as on the voice gateway side of the circuit, and which of these would provide the features, cost points, and manageability that are optimal for your network might not be obvious at first glance.

The book goes on to provide insights into many other areas of gateway selection and deployment, including the myriad choices in carrying fax and modem traffic over IP, dial plan features and digit manipulation tools, call admission control capabilities to keep voice traffic off the IP network when it does not have the quality levels to carry it, a review of DSP technology and operation, and an examination of IP connectivity implications and QoS features required to carry voice traffic with decent quality. Later chapters in the book also include discussions on pure IP-oriented topics such as TCL and V

The book also covers key areas of interest in any network, including security measures and high availability. VoIP network security is a wide topic fully deserving of its own book-length treatment, but this book provides enough basic information to get your network deployed. It covers how voice gateway traffic passes through firewalls and NAT devices, how to encrypt voice signaling and media traffic to or from a voice gateway, as well as configuring class of service restrictions such that certain call patterns are allowed while others are blocked per the policy of your network. High availability is essential in all networks—a chapter in this book is dedicated to the discussion of how gateways fail over when other network components are out of contact, as well as how gateway features interoperate with IP Phone failover features such as SRST to maintain dial tone and PSTN network access for your end users at all times.

Throughout the book is a case study that solidifies the chapter discussions by providing practical, hands-on examples of how the configuration of the system implements the features. This, together with the detailed chapter-by-chapter coverage of crucial gateway topics, make this an invaluable book essential to the tool chest of anyone contemplating the implementation of a new network, actively designing a network, or evolving or optimizing the features in an existing network.

Christina Hattingh
Access Technology Group
Cisco Systems, Inc.

Meet the Author

Denise Donohue, CCIE No. 9566, is a design engineer with AT&T. She is responsible for designing and implementing data and VoIP networks for SBC and AT&T customers. Prior to that, she was a Cisco instructor and course director for Global Knowledge. Her CCIE is in Routing and Switching.

David L. Mallory, CCIE No. 1933, is a technical education consultant with Cisco Systems, Inc. supporting Cisco voice certifications. Prior to this role, David was a systems engineer supporting several global enterprise customers. David has presented on voice gateways and gatekeepers at Networkers and has achieved four CCIE certifications: Routing and Switching, WAN Switching, Security, and Voice.

Ken Salhoff,CCIE No. 4915, is a systems engineer with Cisco Systems, Inc. Ken has been specializing in voice technologies with Cisco for the past six years. In the systems engineering role, Ken has supported several global enterprise customers using Cisco voice technologies. Ken has achieved two CCIE certifications: Routing and Switching, and Voice.


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