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PBX Price Crazyness

* This post has been updated, May, 17, 2019

In some of my previous posts, I've shown examples and recommendations for Grandstream UCM 62xx PBX's, as they are very reasonably priced and time proven with Grandstream having been around for a very long time. However, at present, they concentrate on the smaller end of town - and there's nothing wrong with that, as small business makes up over 90% of all businesses in Australia, so there is indeed a huge market to be tapped into, and Grandstream are on a winner with their features and reliability, and beat the competition hands down in pricing.

But in the age of NBN where most POTS exchanges are being turned off (unless you're lucky enough to be in an NBN Wireless footprint where you get to keep your POTS line), SIP trunking (VoIP) is growing exponentially, and larger businesses like Hotels, Motels, Resorts, Aged Care/Retirement Villages and others in the medium size market that are using standard POTS lines, are also going to need to move that way, and that's where thing's get price crazy for hardware, and I mean real crazy.

Some businesses in this medium sector will be needing phone systems with hundreds of lines, Grandstream's top line unit can handle 2000 registrations, but due to hardware limitations, the 65xx series maxes out at around 200 concurrent calls, which although is still most suitable for many medium sized businesses, is out of the race for those top end medium and larger enterprise size businesses, this means alternatives have to come into play, the two that I would consider genuine contenders, and also long established in the VoIP world, are Xorcom and Sangoma (who as of 2018 own FreePBX), and this is where it gets crazy.

Take for example a system with a maximum of 1000 SIP registrations (be they pure VoIP phones, Analogue gateways or combination of both) and 300 concurrent calls...

Xorcoms match is their XR3000 which comes in at around 1700 US Dollars, the Sangoma equivalent, the PBXact UC1000, comes in well over 7000 US Dollars, the local Australian dealer lists them as being 3,600 AUD and 12,500 AUD respectively (the latter even more expensive than likes of Avaya who's phone systems are popular in Australia) - for doing pretty much the exact same thing, how can Sangoma justify that is... well... it's just mind boggling, how in fact can anyone, any business, justify that, I've known network admins to be sacked for far less.

I made a tweet about this this morning, which prompted me to blog about it in greater detail, and as I was almost finished this blog post, about to publish, I received a tweet from someone (related to Sangoma) attempting to justify the high cost by labelling Xorcom as outdated - well, sure, you wont get too much of an argument of out me there (unless they are more update than their literature alludes to), it's underlying software and OS might be a few years old, but it still works perfectly well and still does everything most businesses could dream of in a PBX. So to the tweet...

OK, so, is a new version of a free downloadable open source operating system (CentOS), and a newer version of a free downloadable copy of FreePBX (Software wise, PBXact and FreePBX are feature identical), another drive, and 12G RAM worth the massive price indifference? Seriously? I've been told it's mostly hardware that dictates such high pricing, but with another disk and 12G RAM for about 1500, that's obviously not the case here unless their RAM is pure gold, and as for twin disks, that is a bonus, but your phone system should load from, not run from, disks, or it'll be mighty slow, and although SSD is faster than spinning disks, they are also far more prone to failures, I guess that's why they use two of them ;-)

*** Update ***
Sangoma reached out to me today (May 2019) and informed me that they have the much cheaper FreePBX appliance range, which is a fully featured latest FreePBX appliance, it uses the exact same hardware as their PBXact range, the difference is the FreePBX appliance range does not include all the extra add-on modules (except the property management system which is installed and included free for up to 10 rooms) where as PBXact includes them all, and I've yet to discover anyone who needs all the other stuff anyway, though, as with the downloadable FreePBX, the extra modules can be purchased separately if you do need them.

As mentioned, these appliances are substantially cheaper, at around US1.5K compared to the US7K PBXact, in the 1000/1200 series, providing significant cost savings. This makes Sangoma's hardware offerings very attractive, even with the terribly performing Aussie dollar.

I will attempt to further update this article once I receive localised pricing on this range of appliances, though I expect it to be in the region of US price plus 40% due to exchange rates.

When considering PBX systems, shop around, not just for appliance/system best prices, but for competitors offerings that do the same things, or, at very least, tick all the boxes of your requirements, don't fixate on one thing just because some business centre sales guy (who lives for commissions) says you need.

I will however give Sangoma credit for their top end Vega gateways though, so Sangoma do understand how to be competitive for the larger FXS port markets, though there are pros and cons with each companies offerings, I will look at the Vega 3050g and Xorcom Astribank. The Astribank is about 1000 dollars cheaper, but the Vega does offer 18 more ports, and although lacks elsewhere, I consider the cost of the 18 extra ports to close enough balance out that 1000 difference, it's still over priced by a bit, but I can accept it easier than their crazy PBX appliance pricing.

If you are only needing short distance cable runs, you should also look at the Grandstream GXW4248 48 port gateways, at around $AU1200 it's much more budget friendly, I don't look at it herein my main comparisons because its recommended maximum cable run is only 1KM, much shorter than the 6 to 8km's of the XR3000 or V3050G.

* If you only require a handful of FXS ports, look at Grandstream and Cisco. (Cisco have now EOL'd their 8 port FXS units)
* The Xorcom XR3000 can be purchased with internal FXS ports.

  • Sangoma Vega 3050g

    • Simple to use and configure, setup takes mere minutes
    • 50 FXS ports
    • Two standard Telco 50 sockets
    • IP Based
    • Lacks RJ11 ports useful for testing
    • Lacks per port status lights, extremely useful for testing

  • Astribank XR0008

    • Plug and Play with any Asterisk based Server
    • Only maximum of 32 FXS ports
    • USB connectivity, (in rare cases this can be a problem with multiple units and port assignments if changed out)
    • Has rear a TCO socket of sorts, but is non standard with proprietary pin out and wiring codes
    • Has front mounted RJ11's, can be used as main input, or as a test point, doesn't isolate TCO pair.
    • Has front mounted LED's for status and activity. This is essential in such devices. Can be made to fast blink to locate a DAHDI port from the PBX.

I'd like to see Sangoma provide per port status LED's on future Vega models, it can be a techs best friend.
Vega Gateways are well suited for larger fit outs where the cheaper Grandstream Gateways are more suited to smaller hauls.

*** It is most likely your existing PABX can be upgraded or made to work without total replacement, this post is for new installs, and those who actually really do need to replace their existing systems entirely for other reasons.

Disclaimer: I have no direct affiliation with any company or product linked to or mentioned in this article, I use them as product/price examples only, I may however install or service some of or all of the products mentioned, I offer no guarantee that any links to sellers are to authorised agents, or that the prices they provide are the best available.

Please perform due diligence on all sellers, and review all of their polices before making any online purchases.

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