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This article is meant to be an overview of how to provision Polycom IP phones. I will assume that you alreay have or know how to configure both a tftp server as well as a DHCP server. I will provide example configuration files that you can feel free to modify to fit your environment. I am not, however, going to go into detail about each configuration option and how to use it. If there is enough interest in a more detailed explanation of the configuration files themselves, I will expound upon that in a future article.

1. Retrieve Firmware and Configuration Files

The first step toward successfully provisioning a Polycom IP Phone is to obtain the proper firmware. If you bought your phones from a Poycom Certified Reseller, such as PBX Supply, you can contact your vendor for the proper files. It is very important that the configuration files you use are the same ones that came with your version of firmware. Polycom often adds or removes options from these files as they tweak their software.

2. Unpack Firmware Package on TFTP Server

Once you have obtained the files, you will need to unpack all of them into your TFTP server of choice. It is quite important that all of the files are there to avoid headaches in the future. You do not want to simply add your modifications because if a phone is ever interrupted while downloading its configuration (power outage, someone tripped over the cable, etc.), the configuration file on the phone can become corrupted. Once it is corrupted, the phone can behave erratically or simply refuse to boot. However, if all of the configuration files are on your server, the phone will simply download everything again and be happy once more.

Another word of warning: I highly discourage modifying the default configuration files. This will make it much more difficult to upgrade to a newer firmware in the future. Always add your modifications to an override file instead.

3. Create Global Configuration File

Your next step will be to create a global override file. This file will contain the configuration options that should apply to all of the phones that will be connecting to your provisioning server. Here is what a sample file might look like:

<sip><voIpProt><server voIpProt.server.1.address="my.sip.server.com"
<outboundProxy voIpProt.SIP.outboundProxy.address="my.sip.server.com"/>
<alertInfo voIpProt.SIP.alertInfo.2.value="Ring Answer" voIpProt.SIP.alertInfo.2.class="4"/>
<dialplan dialplan.impossibleMatchHandling="2">
<user_preferences up.useDirectoryNames="1" up.oneTouchVoiceMail="1"/>
<MESSAGE_WAITING se.pat.misc.1.name="message waiting"
<RING_ANSWER se.rt.4.name="Ring Answer"
<SNTP tcpIpApp.sntp.address="my.time.server.com" tcpIpApp.sntp.gmtOffset="-18000"/>
<presence pres.reg="1"/>
<feature feature.1.name="presence" feature.1.enabled="1" feature.10.name="call-park" feature.10.enabled="1"/>
<microbrowser mb.proxy=""><main mb.main.home="http://my.www.server.com/polycom/directory.php"/></microbrowser>

Name this file global.cfg
For more information on the options available, you can consult the administration guide (available from your authorized reseller).

4. Create Per Phone Configuration Files

Once you have your global options file created, you can proceed to creating another override file for each phone. I usually create a file called phone_template.cfg that looks something like this:


<reg reg.1.displayName=”extension”




<msg msg.bypassInstantMessage=”1″>
<mwi msg.mwi.1.subscribe=”extension” msg.mwi.1.callBackMode=”contact” msg.mwi.1.callBack=”*97″/></msg></phone1>

Now when you are ready to create a new phone configuration file, you can use the following command (assuming this is a *nix based server):
sed ’s/extension/123/g’ phone_template.cfg > 123.cfg

This will create a new file for extension “123″ called “123.cfg”. If you are not a command line kind of person, have no fear – a simple search and replace in your favorite text editor will accomplish the same thing. I prefer to use the command line because I am often creating many new files at once. I use a spreadsheet to generate the command for each extension, then just copy the column containing one command on each row and paste it into a shell session.

5. Create the Master Configuration File for Each Phone

Okay, now take a deep breath – your almost finished with the configuration files. One more to go. Each phone has a unique address printed on the back of it. It is the 12 character string printed just above the bar code. This address is called a MAC address and is what we will use to distinguish one phone from another. You will notice that one of the configuration files that came with your firmware is 000000000000.cfg. Make a copy of this file and call it mac-template.cfg. Now modify it to look something like this:

<?xml version=”1.0″ standalone=”yes”?><!– Default Master SIP Configuration File–>

<!– Edit and rename this file to <Ethernet-address>.cfg for each phone.–>

<!– $Revision: 1.14 $ $Date: 2005/07/27 18:43:30 $ –><APPLICATION APP_FILE_PATH=”sip.ld”

CONFIG_FILES=”extension.cfg, global.cfg, phone1.cfg, sip.cfg”





Now you can use your handy-dandy sed command or your favorite text editor to create a mac-address.cfg file for each phone. Again, I have found a spreadsheet to be a very handy tool to formulate the commands that will create these files in seconds (I usually combine creating the mac-address.cfg and extension.cfg files into one step).

Don’t forget to create the directories on your server to match whatever directories you list in the mac-template.cfg file. These directories will be used by the phones to upload logs, contact directories, and configuration overrides onto the server.

6. Configure DHCP Boot Server Option

This final step is an optional one for small deployments, but it definitely make life easier. If you choose to skip this step, then you must configure each phone to tell it to use tftp and where the tftp server is. That process is explained well enough in the administration guide from Polycom, so I will leave it as an exercise for the user.

Defining the boot server option on you DHCP server will help you avoid ever having to touch the phone at all for configuration. It is a simple step, and will save you hours of work for large deployments. Simply modify your DHCP server options and add Option 66. It should be defined as:


Note: not all DHCP servers support option 66. Many of the cheap home routers will not. However, both the servers freely available for Windows and Linux do.

Proactive Networking, Inc. is a certified Polycom reseller.
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