Understanding basic IP Phone features

Understanding basic IP phone features

 You are looking for the perfect IP phone but all of the sudden you see things like BLF, SIP, PoE, and so on… Now you feel the fear of not knowing what phone is better suited for you.

 Not anymore!! In this article we will go through some of the basic and most common features in IP phones so that you can select a phone that covers exactly what you need.

     1. What is it for? First, you need to be sure about what you need the phone for. Is it for an operator, a manager or for use in the warehouse? Knowing this is very important when it comes to how sturdy the phone needs to be and what features are more important to have

     2. Number of SIP accounts: Let’s remind ourselves that the vast majority of IP phones use SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) to communicate with the IP-PBX in a client-server configuration (the phone registers to the PBX). Many IP phones will allow you to have more than one registered account with the pbx, or pbx’s. Meaning that you can have multiple SIP “lines” in the same phone.

Lets say you have two companies; you can have one SIP account registered to company A and one SIP account registered to company B. This way you would easily identify where calls are coming from and you can select which account to use for outgoing calls.

SIP accounts can also allow you to receive more than one call at a time. Every new call will take the next SIP line available. It would be useful for an operator to have more SIP lines available (although the same behavior can also be achieved using queues, but lets not get into that right now)

Most people will work just fine with two SIP accounts, and you can get really good ones for a small price. The downside is that most of these phones will not have some of the more advanced features like big color screens, video capabilities, BLF’s, etc… and for that reason you might end up with a phone with a lot of SIP accounts just because the other features are more important to you…


     3. Ethernet Ports/Connectivity: IP phones need to be connected to your network and even though some phones offer Wireless capabilities, most IP phones use a wired connection and they will have AT LEAST one Ethernet port in which you would connect the network cable. If you have limited network ports in your workspace (most of us have) then you would want a phone that has two Ethernet ports. This way you can connect your phone to the network and your desktop computer (or other device) to the phone, eliminating the need to use an extra Ethernet port in the workspace.


Ethernet ports come with different speed standards, being the most common “Fast Ethernet (100 Mbit/s)” and in a close second “Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbit/s)”. Which phone you choose will depend on your company standards. If your company works with gigabit Ethernet, then you would want to have a gigabit Ethernet phone but this doesn’t mean that the fast Ethernet phone will not work. Keep in mind that the slowest device in a network segment establishes the overall speed of the entire segment.


If you are looking for a phone that can be moved around freely, e.g.: in a warehouse, you want to take a look at the wireless or DECT phones as well.

TIP: you can achieve similar wireless capabilities by using an ATA or Gateway and a regular wireless phone just like the ones you would find at any big retail store.

     4. PoE: PoE stands for Power over Ethernet, this means that the phone can get its power from the Ethernet cable and it doesn’t need to be plugged to an electrical outlet. This sounds great, right? It’s easier to install and you free one electrical outlet (no more unplugging stuff to charge your cellphone) but BEWARE, for this to work you must have a PoE switch in your network. It is the switch what gives power to the phone through the Ethernet cable. Without the PoE switch, the phone will NOT boot up.

If you have a PoE switch in your company, then I would definitely recommend buying a phone that is PoE capable (most are anyways), but if you don’t have the PoE switch right now, make sure the phone you are buying comes with an AC adapter so you can plug it to the electrical outlet. Some manufactures give the phone without the AC adapter and you have to buy it separately.
If you are not sure about your network switch, you can easily do a Google search on the model number and it would say if it has PoE and how many of its ports are capable of offering power to connected devices.
     5. BLF’s: BLF stands for Busy Lamp Field but that doesn’t really say much! The BLF buttons are those little sets of magical buttons that have the ability to change color depending on the situation.
BLF can be configured to monitor the status of other extensions or even lines, they usually turn green when the extension is available, amber when is ringing and red when is busy. BLF can also allow the person to dial, transfer or get a call just by hitting the button assigned to that particular extension. This is tremendously useful for operators that need to see the status of the other extensions before transferring a call and that need their work to be fast and efficient (it is a lot easier to transfer a call just by pushing a button than having to actually dial the extension). Some managers also use this feature to keep an eye on other extensions or even get calls that are ringing in other extensions when that person is away from their desk.
Some phones don’t have BLF’s, some will allow you to use “SIP-line buttons” as BLF’s, and others will have from 4 to 24 or even 100 BLS’s through LCD screens. Keep in mind that some phones have the option to integrate with additional BLF’s extensions that can increase the BLF’s count up to 160 or more (great for operators).


     6. Color Screen/Video Capabilities: More and more often, video is being integrated into our calls. Some IP phones have an integrated camera that will allow you to have video calls or even simple video-conferences. Video-phones are also a great option if you use IP cameras for surveillance. You can configure your system so that you can monitor your security cameras from your desktop phone and even have a conversation through the camera (if the camera has audio capabilities). Videophones and IP cameras integration offer a whole new world of possibilities: intercom, door opener, alerts, you name it…


     7. More advanced features: Nowadays, you will see IP phones that come with operating systems like android and other phones that will offer you the option to integrate custom apps for your business. If customization is something important to you, then you definitely need to take a look at these phones (even in you just want to have your social media or games in your phone).

There is a lot more ground to cover when you want to get into the specifics of IP phones features but knowing the ones mention above will help you make a wiser decision when it comes to choosing your next IP phone.

Any questions? Contact us and we’ll get back to you!

  • IP Phone, IP PBX, BLF, POE, SIP Channels, SIP Trunk, SIP, VoIP
  • 2 Users Found This Useful
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