Despite the ceaseless march of technology some old clunkers refuse to go away and die gracefully. We’re talking about fax of course. Fax was an idea which took quite a long time to catch on, but once caught, there’s been no shaking it off ever since. If you setup a small business office and don’t include a fax, you might as well just go straight into receivership and save the hardship and cost of ending up there anyway. You can install all the Internet kit you can poke a stick at and have websites and email freely available but suppliers and customers will just ask you for your fax number anyway.
Now this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, you just buy fax machine or one of those all-in-one printers which can print, copy, scan, fax and make coffee. Plug the thing into a phone line and you’ve got fax. Problem solved move along. However, if you’ve decided that the future of phones is voice over Internet protocol, which the tech sales guy calls VoIP, then you probably don’t have any phone lines where you can plug your fax. Don’t bother plugging your fax into the VoIP socket. That’s not going to work. That is of course, unless you have a VoIP box which knows how to do something called protocol T.38.
And yes such devices do exist, and you can get one from Linksys under the model number SPA2100. This box of tricks sells for around $40 and has two VoIP ports, so you can plug a phone into one and a fax into the other. You’ll also need to be connected to a VoIP provider which can handle T.38 calls, but most can these days, and MyNetfone certainly can – it was they who provided us with the Linksys SPA2100 to trial. But that wasn’t all they sent. As well as the VoIP fax box we also received an Ericsson W25 Fixed Wireless Terminal. Hard to say, but easy to use. Basically, this is a broadband router which gets its broadband via 3G mobile networks – the one we tested was linked to Telstra’s NextG.
What makes this box of tricks slightly different from others on the market is the price one thing, at around $1000 – three times the price of the Telstra’s 7.2 Home Network Gateway. But for the extra cash the Ericsson W25 includes a couple of telephone ports on the back, along with four Ethernet ports, a WiFi antenna, two USB ports and an optional battery. And it can run on 12V. Getting the idea? This gadget will work in a mobile home, or on a boat, or in a caravan, or in the display tent of a travelling sales person. The included phone ports let you make calls via the 3G mobile network using any ordinary handset or walkabout phone, and the USB ports let you share a printer or some extra hard drive storage. It’s fairly complete in itself, but by plugging the aforementioned Linksys SPA2100 into one of the Ethernet ports, you’ve now got 10c phone calls.
You might not be able to justify the price of the Ericsson W25 for home use, but for a mobile business, or a remote business, or for anyone wandering the highways or rivers of this large continent, the price might not be a sticking point. The fact that it will give you Internet access for multiple PCs and/or laptops, share your printer and storage, and connect a telephone, almost anywhere, might be all the incentive required. And fax. Don’t forget the all-important fax.