Routers are rapidly entering the mainstream and vendors are keen to bolt on features to differentiate their offerings from the common herd. VoIP (voice over IP), as deployed here by Billion's BiPAC router, is one such candidate.
While it's a rather standard 54G Wi-Fi ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) router, with a four-port switch and firewall, the BiPAC’s up-to-date specification is hard to fault. It doesn't have draft-N Wi-Fi, but it supports ADSL2+ and WPA2-PSK encryption and up to 16 VPN (virtual private network) connections, as well as VoIP with QoS (quality of service) traffic prioritisation.
It joins an ever-expanding list of such boxes, including the AVM Fritz!Box, the Speedtouch 780WL, the Draytek Vigor 2800VG, the Intertex SurfinBird IX68 with its full SIP server, and the Zyxel P2602HWL.
The 7404VGO has a pair of sockets for telephone handsets, plus another for an analogue phone line. This gives you the option of making conventional or VoIP calls. A smart 'least cost routing' feature ensures that the call is made via the cheapest method. Like other boxes of this type, it supports the SIP VoIP protocol, so Skype doesn't get a look-in.
Our main gripe is that the cornucopia of configuration options – and this box is highly configurable – make no concessions to the novice. Take the normally simple task of setting up your ADSL connection – with a comparable Belkin, Netgear or Belkin router this would be a matter of a few clicks. Not so with this model: there’s no setup wizard and the arcane nomenclature had us reaching for the PDF user guide.
Setting up VoIP was another fairly intricate procedure; mercifully, you only have to do it once. The printed Quick Start and Install guides were fairly useless, and network novices may struggle to get things up and running.
There are plenty of VoIP routers that are easier to set up, such as the Linksys SPA 3102 and the AVM Fritz!Box range. However, the Billion is one of the cheapest Wi-Fi VoIP routers around, and it's as fully featured as its rivals, if not more so. The steep learning curve will be a problem for the novice, but if you're an experienced network user, this is a good choice.