I've been placed in charge of replacing an older Avaya TDM PBX with a new VoIP system that will integrate with Exchange (at least in the capability to transcribe voicemail messages and deliver them to the email inbox).

I recently acquired the CCNA Voice cert, and while I have a decent idea of what I need, perhaps the most confusing part is the licensing. I really thought Cisco should have done a better job of explaining it for the CCNA Voice curriculum.

Basically, the network design will involve a SIP trunk from the ISP. I was looking at a Cisco Business Edition 3000 system, but I found out it requires a CUBE. So, that being the case, I am looking to buy either a 3825 router, or something from the 2900-series instead of the BE3000 system.

So my questions are:

  • I know CUCME is part of the IOS image, but does it have to be licensed to be unlocked?

  • I know I'll need either an AIM-CUE or NM-CUE for voicemail, how does licensing for that work?

  • If I buy Cisco IP phones from eBay, I assume they're unlicensed. How do I acquire a license, or will they simply work with CUCME (provided CUCME supports the phone model to begin with)?

  • Is the CUBE functionality built into IOS, similar to how CUCME is, or is it an addon, and how does licensing for that work?

  • What hardware would you recommend for a small company of 30 employees with a 10-number SIP trunk? Or does a 3825/2900-series sound ok?

  • How does a small company with no Cisco contracts go about purchasing the necessary licenses?

I have been researching this for about three weeks, but I keep running into incomplete and sometimes conflicting information. This will be the first voice system I've set up.

  • 1
    It would be better to separate this into multiple questions. I suggest one question with all the licensing sub-questions, and then another with the spec/design questions. May 16, 2013 at 14:17

3 Answers 3

  1. On a 2900/3900 platform, the UC license is required to use the CUCME/SRST functionality. It is in addition to the base OS. Once unlocked the commands will be available (no upgrade needed).

  2. As of Unity express 7.0.2, the CUE modules are licensed separately for a given number of mailboxes.

  3. Spare phones (with an = in the part number) are technically unlicensed. You can use them with the system, as the CUCME router platform is licensed to a specific number of phones per hardware platform. While you don't need the licenses to operate the phones, you should probably purchase them to stay on Cisco's good side.

  4. CUBE should be unlocked with the UC licenses on the 2900/3900 platform.

  5. For 30 phones, you probably want a 2911 or 2921.

Brett is right in that you probably need to contact a Cisco VAR/Partner to sort out the licensing issues. They have people on staff that can take care of that for you and probably get you discount off list pricing.

  • For the 2800/3800-series, is the functionality of CUCME/CUBE present and functional by default? In other words, I understand on the 2900/3900 it has to be licensed before it is even accessible, but is the functionality still accessible on 2800/3800 whether or not it is actually licensed? I'm not trying to do anything illegal, I'm just curious about how it works. Thanks :-)
    – WaxTrax
    May 16, 2013 at 15:51
  • On the 2800/3800 series, the CUCME functionality is delievered via IOS image. I'm pretty sure it's in SP services, enterprise services, and advanced enterprise services. Otherwise the command sets aren't there. May 16, 2013 at 19:49
  • Prior to the ISR G2 line (x9xx's), functionality depends on the IOS featureset selected. Use Cisco Feature Navigator to find an appropriate image. There are no licenses to install, however you are expected to have a license for the feature set you're using.
    – Ricky
    May 17, 2013 at 7:28

A question of this type sounds like something your local Cisco VAR or Partner could answer for you.

Find your local Cisco partners here. You can specifically search for a Partner with Voice experience/folks.

I've found that Cisco's voice licensing is obtuse bordering on arcane sometimes, and it is best to ask the folks who are paid to understand it and deal in it every day.


With that said, if you contact a Cisco Partner, you will also have to sort marketing info from what would really solve your problems. But then again, that's what WE as the engineers are paid for right?


If you are not tied to CallManager, Asterisk is an open-source solution to provide SIP telephony, and can automatically email voicemails to users.

  • 1
    Indeed. That was my first thought as well, but "use Asterisk" doesn't answer the question he asked.
    – Ricky
    May 17, 2013 at 7:25

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