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Second Quarter 1998

BS-1200 Internet Gateway

Oki Network Technologies
785 North Mary Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Ph.: (408) 737-6383
Fax: (408) 720-1139
E-mail: [email protected] 
Web site: www.oki.com 

Price: $7,400

Installation: 4.5
Documentation: 4
Features: 5
Overall: A-

The Oki Network Technologies’ BS-1200 Internet gateway is our latest Editors’ Choice award winner for its performance, cost, and simple set-up process, all of which are among the best we’ve seen in a non-NT Server gateway. Our main criticism of the BS-1200 is the fact that its instruction manuals, which were obviously translated directly from Japanese to English, don’t quite cross the language barrier at all times. While it’s certainly not the end of the world, Oki should consider some reworking to the manuals if it hopes to achieve success in primarily English-speaking countries.

For those who may not know, gateways work by transferring long-distance phone calls and faxes from the standard telephone network to a computer network such as an office-to-office WAN or the Internet. In industrial use, calls originate and end already attached to a network; for less intensive uses, calls may transfer from the local telephone network, to the gateway, then through a WAN or the Internet, to the second gateway and finally back to the local telephone network. Either way, the bottom line is saving money by circumventing long-distance charges with IP telephony, and even that doesn't begin to describe the wealth of potential new and enhanced services that can be added to an Internet call.

The 22-pound box, about the size of a desktop CPU case, attaches to a RJ-45 cable, AC power, and a PC's serial port. The PC connection is made simple by using Windows HyperTerminal, but any terminal program will work; a graphical interface is available separately. Callers can use one of Oki's included telephones, or provide their own.

Once the terminal connection is made, the BS-1200 requests a password. That password is "mainte" by default, but it can, of course, be customized. At a "#" prompt, users check the current IP address, subnet mask, and gateway IP address, using the commands get-ip, get-vbm-subnet, and get-gw-ip. These parameters are changed using the same commands with "set" instead of get, followed by a space and the new address. For example, you would type "set-vbm-subnet 123.456.789.012" to change the subnet mask address. Following these procedures, the gateway is reset using the "oup" and "reboot" commands.

The next step is to use FTP or telnet to modify the BS-1200's "OFDD.VHO" and "DNS.DAT" files, which must use capital letters to function properly. Default files are found in the unit's \vhub\ofd and \vhub\etc directories, respectively. Users download the sample files, make necessary parameter changes and upload the files. There's also a complex step involving routing tables which, we must admit, took us several hours to decipher. But the Oki company provides good phone support, which got us working in about 30 minutes. Finally, if you can ping from a remote PC to the unit's new IP address, then everything is configured properly.

There are actually two manuals — one for installation and one for usage. Both suffer from extremely poor Japanese to English translation, and therefore fail to always make their points. However, the manuals are comprehensive, making good use of charts and diagrams, and there was never a problem reaching Oki to obtain technical support.

The BS-1200's features are many, including a fax port, SNMP access, rack mounting and 4-port, E&M-type interfaces. Other features include:

  • G.729 voice compression.
  • Excellent echo cancellation, and less delay than comparable gateways.
  • Proprietary MIB information open to the public.
  • RSVP bandwidth control.
  • Any standard telephone or fax machine can be attached behind a PBX with the gateway.
  • Sturdy construction.
  • Affordable price.

Since we had just one gateway, we tested the BS-1200 by calling an Oki contact.
We're pleased to report back that there was hardly a noticeable delay between one party speaking and the other party hearing that first speaker. This delay is normally a far more vexing problem than static or echoing, and we've seen it arise in gateways that are much more expensive. The slight delay was perhaps the least we've seen in any gateway to come through our labs, and we were able to have a conversation that resembled real-time — not chat-room — speed.

As we mentioned above, the instruction manuals need an overhaul, and we'd like to see a smaller, lighter box. Also, the analog ports are Oki's unique connector types — attaching standard RJ-11 terminals would be a big help. We'd also like to see the fax port and GUI setup software included with the base product.

For its price, the BS-1200 is a superb performer, if you can get past the manuals, odd connectors, and cryptic command line interface. But of all those factors, performance is still the chief consideration, and the Oki has done a terrific job with it. We look forward to reader feedback on this issue, and we encourage more companies to spend extra time "Americanizing" documentation and help files. Still, we recommend this gateway to any firm desiring a low-cost, high-performance and cutting-edge means of communication.

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