Nortel handsets on FreePBX

We have a selection of Nortel T7316E handsets, designed for use on BCM. We have them plugged into an Avaya IPOffice, but here’s what I know about the IPO:

  1. it’s UI is Windows-only and fugly to
  2. every feature you want costs more money
  3. anything out of the ordinary is unsupported

So I’m exploring Asterix/FreePBX. Is there any way to get these handsets connected to FreePBX?

Yes, I did search on this, but everything about Nortel seems to be about server units.

I believe the company that bought MCK (Citel?) makes a gateway that will convert Nortel TDM phones to SIP extensions. There is also another company that makes an asterisk based PBX which runs Nortel extensions - I just don’t remember the name off the top of my head. How many phones are we talking about?

The Citel 4100 does support those digital handsets: However the last time I looked at the cost of these it was cheaper to buy all new IP handsets.

Second the vote for not worth it in the end. The Citel gateways definitely work (they actually do a pretty neat job of it), but are cost prohibitive unless:
A) Your are stuck without any type of Ethernet infrastructure at all and have to rely on the existing 2 wire connections
B) You’re willing to sacrifice future features/advantages/cost savings of future IP sets in order to get the fastest turn around/deployment possible. (The Citel gateways use the same amphenol connector as the Nortel systems, so the idea is literally unplug from Nortel, plug into pre-programmed Citel and you’re up and running)

Realistically though the pricing of the gateways rarely makes sense unless you’re in scenario A (in which case, the customer’s going to need to get some internet/network cabling installed very soon anyway!). The real problem is you’re making a commitment that per-set costs the same (or higher) than a new IP phone, to maintain the use of a discontinued end-of-life product. If you look at the long term picture it’s just not worth it.

There’s another company who is essentially a group of ex-Nortel techs that hacked together their own firmware for the old BCM50 chasis and use those as gateways, but unless you’re really brave I’d stay as far away from that as possible as it’s really an Avaya lawsuit waiting to happen…

The IP Office is the same old beast as Nortel’s BCM line, with a few more bells and whistles. The licensing/costing structure follows the same old 80’s mentality of “pay the mothership (Avaya) extra for every little thing under the sun”. We’ve moved many customers away from it to a FreePBX/IP Phone/SIP solution simply by laying out the upfront VS longterm costs.

Rob Williams
Jump Network Telecommunications