Apr 072007

Well, I got suckered in again. I splashed out and purchased one of the Cisco 7961 VoIP phones. As always, it’s very nice gear – that is when it works. Cisco have been very smart with this. They say that their SIP firmware is RFC compliant and should work with any VoIP server – however, sadly, there are that many bugs that stop it from working properly, I don’t even know where to start listing them here.

It’s a really sad day when I can say that my $150 Sipura phone that is 3 years old is more reliable than a $500 Cisco phone. While it does take calls (if you look at it right), the message waiting indicator (MWI) doesn’t work, the phone randomly crashes, the configuration files are not documented at all, the phone randomly drops calls, it randomly unregisters lines, and becomes very unstable after about 12 hours of being powered on – meaning you need to reboot it around twice a day.

To add insult to injury, I have been trying for 3 weeks to purchase a smartnet contract to allow me access to newer software for these phones, however 1) Cisco won’t sell them direct, and 2) none of their resellers are interested in selling me a smartnet contract.

At least the phones look nice – because it still looks like an impressive paperweight.

  11 Responses to “Cisco 7961 IP Phone nightmares.”

  1. It’s a good thing I stumbled across your comments. I have been considering the purchase of a Cisco 7961 for our business after seeing them in National Australia Bank branches. I agree that it is a very impressive looking phone. Obviously my interest in this phone stops right here. What you have experienced is disgusting, and I do hope you mention the name of the resellers who wouldn’t help you. This sort of thing is happening far too often, and people are being taken for a ride on a daily basis. What you didn’t say, I will say for you. DO NOT BUY a CISCO SYSTEMS phone.

  2. Hi Stephen,

    A lot of the problems seem to stem from the particular version of SIP firmware I was using. The latest SIP software seems to solve a large number of these issues (to the point where I haven’t had to reboot the phone in about 2 weeks). I’ve sent in numerous bug reports which have apparently been fixed in a ‘yet to be released’ firmware version however Cisco won’t give me this firmware because I am running the phones in an ‘unsupported environment’. Lucky I can source the firmware from elsewhere.

    The 7960 phones don’t seem to experience these issues, as it is a different codebase.

    The 7960 and 7961 would probably work fine if you were using Cisco Call Manager – however for those of us that don’t want to run this, you’ll find yourself in a rather ignored position by Cisco – they simply don’t want to know you. That being said, with persistence, the 7961 does work quite well with Asterisk – as long as you use SIP software version 8.2.2SR1 or higher.

  3. We have no problems with these phones. Maybe you should get it set up correctly?

  4. Hi Brian, These issues were over a year ago and have all been fixed in later SIP software revisions by Cisco. I’m currently running 8.3.4SR1 and all is well.

  5. I sympathize Steve. A few years back I bought a couple of 7961 phones and boy does their firmware suck. I had the same trouble of getting the SmartNet contract. Never succeeded actually. I will not ever buy Cisco phones again with alternatives like the Polycom IP670, Snom 370 and Aastra 57i doing great with Asterisk and FreeSWITCH. And you don’t need to *buy* some stupid contract to get new firmware that merely *fixes bugs*.

    @Steven Haigh: all is not so well in firmware version 8.3.5. There is a bug in the Sip “Supported” header. I tested a 7961 phone with 8.3.5 SIP firmware & FreeSWITCH (which uses Nokia’s Sofia-SIP) and FreeSWITCH tells the Cisco to go take a hike. Apparently during a register session a 7961 with 8.3.5 SIP firmware will send “Supported: (null),X-cisco-xsi-6.0.2” which I was told is non-RFC compliant as the “(” and “)” are not allowed. Hence no successful registration and no ability to make or receive phone calls. SIP firmware version 8.2.x does not have this bug.

    This bug was even privately acknowledged by someone who said he worked on this stuff at Cisco’s TSBU. It is unknown if this bug will be fixed soon. Maybe the coverage of this rather embarrassing bug on the Internet will put some pressure on Cisco to fix it.

    Oh and while I’m adding stuff on my wish list: how about some technical documents extensively describing the XML config files. It’s amazing how changing a “yes” to a “1” in a config file will actually make the phone boot. Would be nice if I could actually read about that instead of finding it out through trial and error…

  6. I also have struggled with Cisco over this phone. The documentation and support provided by Cisco is awful and like you, it took us forever to get a SmartNet contract.

  7. I agree. I never ended up getting a SmartNet contract as nobody would sell me one. So instead I found this place and never looked back 🙂

  8. I also have a 7961 and I find it works amazingly well. No problems with it at all. My only gripe is that I haven’t been able to set it up like a normal IP phone, I am instead having to load a config from a TFTP server on the local LAN so it will connect to my hosted Elastix server at the datacentre.

  9. Cannot get the SIP load on a SCCP phone…Trying to get the following files…on it
    I dont see it hit my TFTP server after I did factory reset..


  10. I totally agree , A lot of promises made by the cisco rep, and a bot of money spent by our corporation…The phones look nice but they always crash, calls drop, and software always needs updating…We to make a long story short we are going back to our Avaya platform as it has been there to make us money everyday, we cant afford to lose business looks like the traditional pbx is still the way to go if you are serious about running a business

  11. Sad to say, we have had these phones and Cisco system for over 14 months and continue to have major problems. Dropped calls, system down, echo, etc., and the phone company continues to give us excuses. I would not wish this system on anyone!!

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