By Joseph Moran
October 8, 2008
Polycom SpectraLink 8002 Wireless Telephone
Price: $359 (MSRP)
Pros: WMM support compatible with most inexpensive wireless access points
Cons: SIP interoperability certification limited to Digium Asterisk Business Edition
A Wi-Fi network can greatly improve productivity by freeing workers to move around the office with computers in tow. But even if employees aren’t deskbound by computers, they may still be tethered by the need to use the phone.
Polycom’s SpectraLink 8002 Wireless Telephone ($359) can improve worker mobility while allowing small firms to get more out of a Wi-Fi network by using it for voice calls, as well as for conventional data.
The 5.5” x 2.0” x.09” (HWD) 8002 is an 802.11b device, capable of up to 100mW transmit power. The handset’s plastic housing feels solid and durable and seems likely to be able to withstand the typical abuses of an office setting or even of harsher environs like a warehouse or factory floor. Both the 8002’s keypad and four-line dot-matrix LCD display are backlit, and the 4.2-ounce phone uses a NiMH battery pack that Polycom rates for three hours of talk time and 50 hours on standby.
Performance is always a concern when delivering latency-sensitive voice data over a wireless network, and the 8002 addresses this by supporting QoS based on the Wi-Fi Alliance’s WMM standard, which prioritizes voice over less critical types of wireless network traffic. Given that WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia) support is increasingly found in SMB and even most consumer-level wireless access points, it means you don’t necessarily need pricey enterprise-grade wireless hardware to deploy the 8002.
What you will need, however, is a PBX that uses the SIP (Session Interchange Protocol) VoIP standard—preferably Digium’s Asterisk Business Edition, which Polycom has certified for interoperability with the 8002. (Polycom loaned us a Digium Asterisk Appliance 50 PBX unit for this review.)
Before you can get an 8002 functional on a WLAN, the PBX must be operational and there must also be a TFTP server present on the network, from which the 8002 obtains its operating software and SIP configuration data. We used the 8002 with an inexpensive (around $100) WMM-capable Netgear WNR3500 router, a native 802.11n router that we ran in 802.11b-compatible mode.
You can configure the 8002’s wireless and IP network settings by powering up the phone in a special mode that displays an administrative menu on the LCD display that you can navigate using the volume controls and a pair of soft keys. Configuring the 8002 can take some patience, especially when it comes to entering lengthy text strings—such as an encryption passphrase—using a numeric keypad. (The 8002 supports WEP plus WPA and WPA2 Personal encryption methods.) While configuring the 8002 we noticed it had an annoying tendency to abruptly exit configuration mode, restart, and attempt to connect to the network if left idle for even a few seconds.
The 8002 can receive IP network configuration via DHCP, but since it requires a TFTP server location, it won’t work with simple DHCP servers (like the kind found in many routers) that only deliver basic parameters—like DNS and default gateway—with an IP address. Since our router-based DHCP server lacked that option, we configured the phone with a static.
Once configured, the 8002 will connect to the specified WLAN and then to the TFTP server to download a two-part SIP configuration. One part contains information that applies to all phones, while the other is user/extension-specific based on the username and password provided. The 8002 doesn’t permanently store the configuration data, so the phone must go through the login process each time it’s turned on. This can be handy for companies that employ office hoteling or otherwise don’t need or want a 1:1 ratio between phones and workers. (You can also cache the login credentials to avoid having to enter them each time.)
Voice quality from the 8002 was quite good, and the handset’s user-selectable features are easy to access via the menu, including an audible ring/vibrate option and a noise level mode that adjusts volume and microphone sensitivity for different environments. While using the 8002 we did notice that the phones keys were stiff to the point of being difficult to press. Missed keys were commonplace when we didn’t make a conscious effort to press solely and firmly. (The keys could potentially loosen up a bit with time and use.)
We didn’t have any problems maintaining a strong signal between the 8002 and the Netgear AP, though the limited size of our environment kept us from putting more than 50 feet between them. For larger settings, the 8002 has a handy built-in site survey function, which allows you to walk around with the handset to gauge your WLAN’s signal strength in different locations.
The 8002’s WMM-based QoS worked well, and we didn’t experience any voice hiccups even when lots of other things like multimedia streaming and file transfers were taking place on the WLAN.
Anyone that’s used Wi-Fi on a cellular phone or similar handheld device knows the feature isn’t especially battery-friendly, but the 8002 seems to hold its own when it comes to battery life even when set to maximum transmit power (the default). We used the 8002 on and off all day before having to return the unit to its desktop charging base. (A minor complaint is that since the base’s red LED remains lit whenever the phone is present, the only way to tell that charging is complete is by reading the phone’s LCD display, which you can’t do from a distance.) Those anticipating greater power needs can opt for a $415 bundle package, which includes an extra battery and a base that can charge it independently from the phone.
The Polycom SpectraLink 8002’s $359 list price translates to a sub-$300 street price, which is still pretty dear when compared to a wired IP phone. But if you’re looking to put voice on a WLAN powered by low-cost wireless hardware, the 8002 can do the job.
Joseph Moran is a long-time contributor to Wi-Fi Planet and other publications. He makes his home in Florida.