We have been dealing with mediocre phones for quite some time. Voice over IP was rather a synonym for bad voice quality and unreliability. We ended up using the cell phones most of the time. I still believed it all was a matter of finding the right combination of service provider, VoIP server and phones, and I started putting the pieces together.
First, I signed up with Junction Network’s PSTNgateway service. You get a SIP trunk which is bascially a VoIP service to connect a local server to serve multiple phones instead of just one VoIP phone line (like Lingo or Vonage). It’s very affordable: $9.95 for unlimited lines plus 2.9ct per minute for calling within the US (international rates are also only slightly higher than Skype). I connected a single line to an old VoIP adapter I had and it worked fine.
Then I had to get the server up and running. My plan: use an Asterisk-based free IP PBX software and let it run on an old laptop (to save energy). After digging around, Trixbox appeared to be the best bet and I installed the free lite version (they have a pro version, too, which they bundle with hardware). Around the same time, I also got a bunch of phones: I ordered 4 Cisco 7940 and flashed the firmware to work with SIP (a standard VoIP protocol; more on all the tech stuff here: voip-info.org, the most comprehensive Wiki about Voice over IP). After the installation of trixbox was done I connected one of the Cisco phones and – it didn’t work. It took me quite a bit of poking around to realize, that’s too much for me, I couldn’t get it done, I needed help.
Finally, after spending about 12 – 15 hours configuring Trixbox and the phones, numerous emails going back and forth with Junction Network and the help of a friend, I figured it out. The final solution took modifying the cable modem via SSH (too nerdy to describe), upgrading the router’s firmware and finding the magic switch in Trixbox. But now it works, and it works great!
Supermetric has a new phone number now and 4 of us have own extensions: dial (212) 933-9235 to reach our office and Mia on 104, Marco on 103, Sidney got 102 and I have the 101.
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