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In March of this year, Zoom Technologies announced
a pair of products that sounded like a must-test.
The two models of the Zoom X6v Gateway-one of which is aimed at the consumer market and comes with bundled SIP-based VoIP service, and one aimed at SIP service providers-incorporate a four-port wired switch, an 802.11g Wi-Fi
router, an ADSL 2/2+ gateway, and a VoIP port or ATA, potentially replacing four separate
pieces of equipment, power supplies, etc.
We opted to check out the consumer-focused model 5695, which, as mentioned, comes with
its own SIP-based VoIP service option: Zoom subsidiary Global Village. (The unit can also be configured to
work with other SIP services, a feature that went untried in this review.)
Setting up the X6v, using the handy disc-based Install Assistant, should be a
breeze-if you pay attention and actually follow the instructions (which, sadly, this
reporter did not the first time around). The wizard takes you through wired LAN
connections, DSL connection, phone connection, and signup for the Global Village
Note: Do take the trouble to follow the Wizard precisely. It seems fussy at times
(should it matter which end of a cable you plug in first?), but ignoring the details and
mindlessly wiring components the way we previously had them wired got us into
As part of the install routine, you can set up QoS specs that will guarantee a
percentage of bandwidth you specify to a port you designate (for telephony or for a game
console, for example)-or, alternatively, to share a specified percentage of bandwidth
among designated ports. Ultimately, we did use the QoS feature to ensure sufficient
bandwidth for voice.
You can also, optionally, connect a pass-through to the PSTN; there's a port for that
on the unit clearly labeled "Telco." This will ensure that 911 calls go out over the
PSTN, and incoming PSTN calls ring the phone connected to the gateway. You can configure
the X6v to send outgoing calls dialed to an area code you specify (presumably your local
one) as PSTN calls, as well as opt for other special arrangements like sending all calls
to the PSTN in the event your VoIP service is unavailable.
To set up security for the wireless LAN (and dozens of other configuration tasks), you
use a Web browser on a computer connected to the unit, entering the X6v's IP address in
the destination window.
We hit a slight snag here: The X6v supports WEP and WPA and WPA2
authentication/encryption technologies. Having had some experience with 64-bit WEP (IEEE
"Wired-Equivalent Privacy")-and because Zoom's Quick Start guide recommended it over the
alternatives as easier to configure-I opted for that choice. Unfortunately, it turns out
that certain Macintosh computers have a hard time recognizing WEP keys as hexadecimal
code, and one of these-the MacBook Air-was a system I needed to have connected to the
After unsuccessfully trying out a couple of workarounds, we opted to venture into the
previously unknown territory of WPA ("Wi-Fi Protected Access")-specifically
WPA2-Personal. It turns out that there's virtually nothing to setting it up. You enter a
'pass-phrase' on the unit's Wireless Setup page, save it to Flash, and you're done.
Problem solved; MacBook authenticated.
Late Bulletin: Zoom's engineers have found a workaround for 64-bit WEP on a MacBook
that you can find
here. Unfortunately, as described-using a wired LAN connection-it still wouldn't work
with the MacBook Air, as it has no physical LAN port, just Wi-Fi. Go with WPA.
Another "issue" came to light when I attempted to print across the LAN. It just wasn't
happening. Ongoing communication with Zoom's patient support staff finally got to the
bottom of the issue.
To make a long story short, I was replacing an existing network switch/router with the
X6v-and I was running a firewall (Norton 360) on some of the network nodes. Norton was
installed after that previous router and had mapped all the hardware connected to the
network-including the router. It did not, however, recognize the new router-or the
attached PCs-as "trusted" devices and wouldn't allow communication between them.
(Internet connectivity was not affected by this.)
Lesson learned: If you are retrofitting a LAN with new hardware, and you are running a
firewall (which you should), you may need to reconfigure your firewall to get things
working. This was definitely not a problem with the X6v, but we hope that subsequent
editions of the Quick Start guide and the User Guide (which comes on the install disc as
a PDF) will contain at least some mention of this possible difficulty.
After the adventures of setup and configuration, making calls using the Global Village
(GV) service was almost anticlimactic. It just worked-and call quality initially seemed
fine. It doesn't make any difference what kind of phone you plug into the x6v. I used a
fairly new, plain vanilla, analog AT&T 210, not an IP phone.
As mentioned, signing up for Global Village is a part of the Install Assistant
routine. When you complete this process, GV issues you a seven-digit phone number, which
is both your customer ID (and Website login) and your direct dial, GV-to-GV phone
GV-to-GV calls are free, anywhere in the world, as are calls to or from a number of
other SIP communities, including Free World Dialup. (The GV Website tells you how to dial
these.) A voicemail box is included with the service, as is five-way conferencing (not
You can, optionally, get one or more incoming numbers (DIDs) in any state in the
union. Cost: $3.95 per number per month. (Interestingly, you can get an incoming number
in the UK for free!) DIDs are also available for quite a wide selection of overseas
countries for a one-time setup fee and monthly charges that range from $8.95 per month
(Croatia) to over $20 per month (Pakistan). Incoming calls on your DID (or DIDs) are
For other outbound calling, GV offers two payment plans. For $24.95 per month, you can
get unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada. The alternative is pay-as-you-go: You buy
prepaid time (Skype style) by credit card, by PayPal, or using a prepaid GV card.
Domestic PSTN and mobile calls are billed at a tad under .04 cents per minute, while
overseas calls to many major destinations run just under 3 cents per minute.
That said, there are lots of little rough edges to the Global Village service. For
example, I signed up for a DID, but didn't receive it, as promised, via e-mail-until I
queried my tech support contacts at Zoom.
Furthermore, GV supposedly sends e-mail notifications of voicemail messages-even
offers to send .WAV recordings of messages via e-mail if the customer chooses. I did
select the voicemail-via-e-mail option, but never received either a notification or a
.WAV file. I was, however, able to retrieve voicemails by phone, in the usual manner.
When combing the Global Village website to find out why my Caller ID was not appearing
on GV calls (turns out it's the X6v's job, not GV's), I came across an encouraging Web
link to "live technical support," but it didn't work. You get the idea.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that I experienced some uneven call
quality using the X6v and the GV service; in some instances the problems were severe. It
can be quite difficult to pinpoint the source of quality problems in IP phone calls
without a lot of test equipment, and in fairness-having experienced similar problems with
another VoIP setup, in which neither Zoom nor Global Village was involved-I now believe
the most likely origin of the QoS issues was my DSL provider, not inadequate bandwidth or
the GV Service.
Bottom line, the X6v Gateway is a very cool product. At $129 it is a cost effective
way to add broadband voice to a home LAN, while supporting both wired and Wi-Fi connected
PCs-especially if you're just setting up the network, since, as we said at the outset, it
replaces four pieces of hardware and their electricity-guzzling power supplies.
The issues I encountered during setup and configuration don't reflect poor engineering
or anything that could reasonably be considered design flaws, although, as mentioned, we
could hope for a bit more proactive guidance in the documentation. Zoom's technical
support staff are accessible and dedicated.
As to Global Village, it won't cost you much to try it out-you get ten minutes of free
phone time when you sign up-and maybe you'll have a better experience than we did. If you
do, the price is certainly right, and you'll have free dialup access to members of other
SIP communities. If not, there are plenty of affordable SIP providers.
Article courtesy of VoIPPlanet.com.
Article courtesy of Wi-Fi Planet