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User avatar
By PaulRB
#4675
Hi All, I need some general advice please. I am new to the world of VoIP at home.

Apologies for this long and rambling tale. Please bear with me...

My Panasonic DECT home phones (x4) are starting to go faulty. Also, having my house extended means that in a new room I can't get DECT reception because the signal must pass through two thick stone walls.

So I have been window shopping for replacements, looking at DECT 3 x handset sets with a DECT repeater which I could place to boost the signal into the new part of the house. I can spend as little as £135 for cheap Panasonic sets or more than double that for hopefully better quality Gigaset ones with landline and VoIP cabability.

But it all seems a bit old-fashioned. We have Android smartphones & tablets in the house. Can't I use them in some way to make & receive landline calls, I wondered? (Mobile signal inside the house is pretty useless, due to the rural location and those thick stone walls).

I don't currently have a VoIP account, but might consider it. The main reason is that I don't currently have broadband over the landline. Because of the rural location, conventional ADSL just won't work (confirmed by OpenReach engineers visiting the property). Currently my internet connection is via a 4G router connected to an antenna on the roof of the house. This works quite well, but there is a monthly data limit. So I didn't want to use that up with VoIP data, and have stuck to using the landline for calls. Maybe VoIP does not use much data and I should not worry about that. Please advise.

The broadband situation may soon change, I hope, since our green roadside cabinet has recently been "fibered-up". I am currently exploring going over to landline broadband, as soon as I can be reasonably sure I won't loose my landline number in the process. Most broadband suppliers tell me I can't port the number over to their service, and/or will have to pay extra for a new landline, which seems strange, because BT, my current landline phone provider, says there's no problem with that. I believe I have tracked this inconsistency down to incorrect address data somewhere in BT/OpenReach's systems. It seems they have two slightly different addresses for my property on some mysterious but all-important database. One address is correct in that it matches my Royal Mail address. The other address has a slight difference. Guess which one seems to have the land line details attached to it? Yes, the incorrect address does, and the correct address has no landline connection, apparently. So, I am working with BT complaints department on getting that sorted.

But I digress...

This Panasonic DECT phone would allow me to use smartphones. But to do that, you must download a Panasonic App from Google Play. Problem, is, the reviews of the app on Google play absolutely slate it! Apparently it is very buggy, drops calls, sometimes refuses to answer and runs down your smartphone's battery very quickly. So not a great option.

This Invoxia gadget also claims to create a bridge to your landline and enables you to use smartphones to make/receive landline calls. While their iPhone app sounds OK, the Android version also gets terrible reviews on Google play, with similar faults to the Panasonic app. Sigh...

I have also been investigating this Obihai 200 or 202 device. There seems to be some experience with these devices on this forum, which is why I came here for your advice. I am hoping this could be an option for me. Could I use one of the recommended and stable Ip phone apps from Google Play to make and receive landline calls using the Obihai 200/202 in combination with the ObiLINE adaptor?

If I can get broadband working over the phone line eventually, I could then consider signing up for a VoIP account with a suitable suppler as an alternative/addition to using the landline.

So please offer any advice on the ideas above, or any other approaches or hardware you think might suit my situation. Thanks in advance.

Paul
User avatar
By WelshPaul
#4678
Thanks Paul, I wanted to make sure that you had a suitable router before making any hardware recommendations. I have come across so many posts on other forums over the years where mobile broadband users have modified their 3G/4G dongles for use with external antennas like so:

maxresdefault.jpg
Obviously the above wouldn't be suitable if you're looking to install any VoIP/SIP based hardware.
PaulRB wrote:
Sat 10th June 2017, 13:26
I don't currently have a VoIP account, but might consider it. The main reason is that I don't currently have broadband over the landline. Because of the rural location, conventional ADSL just won't work (confirmed by OpenReach engineers visiting the property). Currently my internet connection is via a 4G router connected to an antenna on the roof of the house. This works quite well, but there is a monthly data limit. So I didn't want to use that up with VoIP data, and have stuck to using the landline for calls. Maybe VoIP does not use much data and I should not worry about that. Please advise.
A VoIP call doesn’t eat up as much bandwidth as you may think. For example, a one minute call using the G.729 codec, do the following calculation:

G.729 uses 32 kilobits per second, which works out at 1920 kilobits (60 x 32) a minute, which in turn is 240 kilobytes (KB) per minute (1 byte is 8 bits). Now that’s only for the data going out. Inbound data (which also counts) takes the same load, so we double the figure to 480 KB. Finally, we can round the value to 0.5 MB per minute of conversation.

You should note that there are many parameters, that are rather technical in nature, affecting the values above. Among them are the size (payload) of the voice packets, the intervals at which they are sent and the number of packets sent in one second (frequency). For most of us, what we want is an approximation for an estimate. So, we can easily do away with the accuracy. Also, we might not know which codec is being used.

Personally, I take the average value of 50 kbps for any codec. This gives (after calculations and approximations) 0.75 MB per minute of conversation. So, if you plan an hour of conversation, it will be roughly 45 MB. Make a 60 minute call every day and you will be using around 1.3GB of your 32GB allowance.
PaulRB wrote:
Sat 10th June 2017, 13:26
This Panasonic DECT phone would allow me to use smartphones. But to do that, you must download a Panasonic App from Google Play. Problem, is, the reviews of the app on Google play absolutely slate it! Apparently it is very buggy, drops calls, sometimes refuses to answer and runs down your smartphone's battery very quickly. So not a great option.

This Invoxia gadget also claims to create a bridge to your landline and enables you to use smartphones to make/receive landline calls. While their iPhone app sounds OK, the Android version also gets terrible reviews on Google play, with similar faults to the Panasonic app. Sigh...
I'd avoid both of those, the trouble with proprietary apps like this is at some point they get left on the shelf, updates are few and far in between and more often or not they release an update that leaves you with an unreliable service, that's if it ever worked to start with.
PaulRB wrote:
Sat 10th June 2017, 13:26
I have also been investigating this Obihai 200 or 202 device. There seems to be some experience with these devices on this forum, which is why I came here for your advice. I am hoping this could be an option for me. Could I use one of the recommended and stable Ip phone apps from Google Play to make and receive landline calls using the Obihai 200/202 in combination with the ObiLINE adaptor?
The OBi200/202 is a great bit of kit but I wouldn't recommend using one along side an OBiLINE, so many users have reported problems such as annoying echoes on PSTN calls. You'd be better off purchasing an OBi110 and a Raspberry PI. Install FreePBX on the PI and you're free to install any SIP based softphone of your choice on your computers, phones, tablets etc. You can even use VoIP DECT or Corded phones around your house along side your computers, phones, tablets to make and receive calls.

A call comes in on your landline, the OBi110 passes it along to the Raspberry PI running FreePBX, and that sends the call to every device/phone in your home. All you need to do is decide where and on what device to answer the call! I actually have this setup in my home, instead of a PSTN line, I'm using VoIP. When an incoming call comes in here, my mobile, my wife's mobile, iPads, desktop pc's, DECT phones, corded phones all ring.

Of course the OBi110 / Raspberry PI scenario above assumes that you have full network coverage around your home, will the new room(s) have WiFi or an Ethernet connection? If not, might be worth running some CAT 6 in while the builders are in.

Finally, regarding your DECT reception issue, I couldn't find out what the actual coverage range of the Panasonic KX-TGH223 phone you linked to above is, the Panasonic website doesn't list it in the spec. BT offer the BT Elements 1K Trio, it's a long range handset with an indoor range of 150M, outdoor range is 1K. Might be worth purchasing one off Amazon, if it doesn't work you can send it back at no cost to you for a full refund.
User avatar
By PaulRB
#4679
Many thanks for the detailed response, Paul.

I thought the Obi110 was "end-of-life" and no longer supported by Obihai? That's why I was looking at the 202/ObiLINE. Would you recommend buying it all the same?

I do have a couple of Pi Zero W around. Would they be suitable? Is there a way to connect the Pi to the phone line and avoid need for the Obi110?
User avatar
By WelshPaul
#4681
PaulRB wrote:
Sun 11th June 2017, 19:34
I thought the Obi110 was "end-of-life" and no longer supported by Obihai? That's why I was looking at the 202/ObiLINE. Would you recommend buying it all the same?
The OBi110 is indeed "end-of-life" but that doesn't mean you shouldn't buy or use one. Simply put, OBihai no longer manufacture them and there will be no more firmware releases for the OBi110. You still have a 12 month warranty, if it develops a fault, you're covered and you can return it. The OBi110 is a rock solid device and there is currently no known bugs or security issues with the firmware. It's the best ATA on the market for use with a PSTN line in my opinion.

I actually purchased a couple of OBi110's recently to put away in storage just in case I ever get another PSTN line! ;-)
PaulRB wrote:
Sun 11th June 2017, 19:34
I do have a couple of Pi Zero W around. Would they be suitable?
I believe you can run RasPBX on the PI zero, how well it runs though is another thing. Might be worth asking other RasPBX users here: https://sourceforge.net/p/raspbx/discussion/general/

To sum it up, had you purchased an OBi202 with OBiLINE, it would of cost you £89 delivered to your door. The OBi110 and complete Raspberry PI 3 kit will cost you £92.99 delivered to your door. For the sake of £3.99 I'd get the PI 3 for the extra power it will provide over the PI zero.
PaulRB wrote:
Sun 11th June 2017, 19:34
Is there a way to connect the Pi to the phone line and avoid need for the Obi110?
Sadly, nope.
PaulRB wrote:
Sun 11th June 2017, 19:51
But we did have the foresight to put in network, TV & WiFi all over the house, including the conservatory.
Then there is no need for long range DECT phones. Once you have implement the OBi110/Raspberry PI, providing you have full WiFi coverage around your home, you could make use of a Wi-Fi phone such as this: http://www.voipon.co.uk/unidata-incom-i ... -5617.html



There are cheaper one's out there:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Wireless-WiFi ... 1759256329
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grandstream-DP ... voip+phone

I'm a firm believer in you “get what you pay for”, of course you could just use your existing equipment to make and receive calls over your landline, such as your mobile phones or tablets. That way your only out of pocket expense is the £92.99 that the OBi110 and Raspberry PI cost you.

Don't forget, this type of setup will not be using any of your 4G 32GB monthly allowance because it's all local LAN based traffic being used.
User avatar
By PaulRB
#4682
Thanks for the WiFi phone suggestion, I'll consider it, but one of my goals was to avoid having more handsets about the house, making use of the smartphones instead. They slip easily into a pocket and contain our contact lists.

I browsed the RaspPBX/Asterisk site. Completely baffled by all the acronyms at the moment! For me, their "FAQ" page totally failed to perform its primary function. Question #1 should have been, in my opinion, "What is RasPBX, what is Asterisk and why do I want/need it?"

So, Paul, could you please explain to me in short sentences. If I had an Obi110, RasPBX running on a Pi and some suitable app on my phones, as you do, what essential function(s) is each device performing? Most particularly the Pi. What is it bringing to the party that the Obi does not do? Can it act as an answering machine, for example?
User avatar
By WelshPaul
#4683
PaulRB wrote:
Mon 12th June 2017, 21:48
So, Paul, could you please explain to me in short sentences. If I had an Obi110, RasPBX running on a Pi and some suitable app on my phones, as you do, what essential function(s) is each device performing? Most particularly the Pi. What is it bringing to the party that the Obi does not do? Can it act as an answering machine, for example?
The OBi110 connects to both your PSTN line and your home network via your router, you would then connect either a traditional corded phone to the OBi110 or a traditional DECT phone directly to the OBi110. At this point you can now make and receive calls over your PSTN line via the OBi110. However, this offers no benefit to you, usually you'd sign up to a VoIP provider and register that VoIP account against your OBi110 in order to make calls over VoIP at a cheaper rate while still receiving inbound calls via your PSTN line.

What you need is the ability to connect your devices to the OBi110. Unfortunately we cant register a softphone directly to the OBi110 (I have tried), even if we could, you'd be limited to two devices so that's where the PI comes in.

The PI basically runs software called FreePBX, RasPBX is basically an image of FreePBX customised to run on the PI. You flash the image to an SD card and pop it in your PI, connect the PI via ethernet to your router and boot it up. You log in to FreePBX via a web based GUI just like you do your router, simply by entering the PI's IP address in your web browser.

All your devices connect/register via a SIP based softphone to the PI, either via an ethernet connection or WiFi. The OBi110 simply allows the PI to use your PSTN line.

The PI/FreePBX does have an answer machine, FreePBX will also email you any new messages you receive while you were out. It can do way more than that though...

You can record calls as standard or by the press of a button.

You can transfer calls to other devices around your home or even to you boss on the other side of the world.

You can place a call hold and even add your own music files so that callers placed on hold have something to listen to while they wait.

All those features such as call barring, call waiting, you pay BT for are available for you to use at no extra cost.

Paging and Intercom as standard.

Use your phones as an alarm clock with wake up calls.

I could go on and on and on and on...

This is what the web interface looks like: https://1drv.ms/v/s!AusdiKa87-PC4Icfo5lx3wGVNpdXug
User avatar
By PaulRB
#4684
Looks more and more interesting!

I'll try to find out if I can use a Pi Zero W. The #1 question on the FAQ says
What is the performance of Asterisk running on the Raspberry Pi?

In a typical setup with RasPBX, 10 concurrent calls are possible on a Pi 1. This is also the case for conferences, meaning 10 participants can join a conference. More than 10 calls do work, but audio quality decreases considerably with every additional call. See also:
The Pi Zero W is a little faster than Pi 1, but WiFi may the bottleneck, compared to ethernet. I doubt it will ever need to cope with 2 concurrent calls, never mind 10!

Paul, what softphone do you use/would recommend?

How much setup and maintenance would this whole setup require? How reliable have you found it? Does it frustrate your familly?
User avatar
By WelshPaul
#4685
Because you're using a traditional PSTN line and not VoIP, you can have only one telephone call on one go at once.

Pick up your PSTN line and make a call, now call your PSTN number from your mobile, what do you hear? An engaged tone unless you have call waiting enabled. This limitation remains, a VoIP service removes such limitations. ;)

You can however make as many internal calls as you like. Dad can be talking to his boss via the PSTN line, daughter in her bedroom can still call mum in the living room etc.
PaulRB wrote:Paul, what softphone do you use/would recommend?
I use Acrobits, Bria and Zoiper on my devices.
PaulRB wrote:How much setup and maintenance would this whole setup require? How reliable have you found it? Does it frustrate your familly?
Took me half an hour to setup my PI, originally had a PI 1, then PI 2 and now the PI 3. Reliability wise, never had an issue. Although the web based GUI was sluggish on the PI 1 and 2, PI 3 it runs perfectly! Once you set it up, it can be left alone tucked away somewhere.
PaulRB wrote:Does it frustrate your familly?
No, my wife doesn't do "technology" and although she normally uses our SIP based DECT phones, from time to time she answers our home landline (VoIP not PSTN) via a softphone on her android phone via WiFi.

If you think it's all a bit too much, keep it simple and stick to your original idea about using long range DECT handsets. Because every home is different, it's hard to say what will work in yours and what won't. If you do decide to purchase a set of long range DECT phones, purchase them from Amazon. If they don't work all around your home then you can send them back at no cost to you.

Just so you know, the phones you linked to above are not actually long range DECT phones per say - They are just normal DECT phones with a DECT repeater thrown in. It's possible to purchase a DECT repeater as a stand alone unit and use it with your current DECT phones. I'm aware that your current set is faulty so you need a new set anyway, just putting it out there for others who come across this thread.
User avatar
By WelshPaul
#4686
I have just been playing around with a few softphones this morning and I have finally managed to register both Zoiper and Acrobits to an OBi202 via both my desktop PC and iPhone. So I guess you could get away with using either an OBi202 or OBi200 as a standalone ATA but you will also need the OBiLINE adaptor to connect it to your PSTN line.

The limitations and differences between the OBi202 and OBi200 are:

OBi202:
  1. Has two phone ports so you can connect up to two telephones directly to the OBi202.
  2. Register up to four other devices to work along side the phone ports.
Obi200:
  1. Has only one phone port so you can only connect one telephone directly to the OBi200.
  2. Register up to four other devices to work along side the phone port.
The OBi200 is cheaper than the OBi202 but there doesn't appear to be any stock of the OBi200 on Amazon. Also, there is no built in answerphone on either OBi, you will either have to use a voicemail service supplied by your phone provider or purchase a suitable telephone with built in answering machine and connect it to the phone port on the OBi.

Be warned though, like I said above, there is a possibility that you may suffer from an annoying echo on calls that come in and go out over the OBiLINE/PSTN. While the echo problem doesn't appear to affect OBi110 users, there is no way to register a SIP device to the OBi100 or OBi110.

So to sum up your options:
  1. Stick with the long range DECT option, hopefully find one that comes with a working/reliable app.
  2. Purchase an OBi202/OBiLINE and pray your one of the few who don't suffer from the dreaded echo issue (See limitations above).
  3. Go with the OBi110/PI option and although you may go bald trying to set it all up, end up with a working solution that offers not only full coverage around your home, removes the limitations (other than the amount of simultaneous calls your PSTN line can handle at any one time) shown above, but you benefit from additional features like voicemail > email, call recording etc.
User avatar
By WelshPaul
#4692
PaulRB wrote:
Wed 14th June 2017, 20:12
Hmmm... So why can't the obi110 do what the 202 can do?
The OBi100 and OBi110 models cannot be configured to act as a registrar for other SIP endpoints due to limitations of both their hardware and firmware unfortunately.
PaulRB wrote:
Wed 14th June 2017, 20:12
Does this sound like a reasonable deal? Or should I save £10 and buy adaptors & perform configuration myself?
The OBi110 you have linked to above will be supplied pre-configured to work with the RealCalls VoIP service, it's web interface is likely going to be locked preventing you from making any changes to it's configuration. As such, you're going to be unable to configure it to work with your Raspberry PI running FreePBX (if you chose to go down that road).

This is the OBi110 you should be looking at.
User avatar
By PaulRB
#4693
"These are not the Androids you're looking for" - master Obi-one-one-oh Kenobi.

Yes, that was the cheapest obi110 I found on eBay too. Just wondered if the convenience of the UK settings configured and the correct cable/adaptors might have been worth the extra tenner. Thanks for the warning about the potentially locked firmware, won't touch that with a barge pole.
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