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peterwemm
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Joined: Apr 15, 2004
Posts: 42
Location: Danville, CA, US

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 3:26 am    Post subject: Pain and suffering (self inflicted) Reply with quote Back to top

It seems I have the misfortune of having my original phone number on the most antiquated of the three SBC CO's that serve my area. It seems that two of the three CO's are serviced by the Big Guns (Focal, XO, Level3 etc), while the one I'm on is mostly stuck with Focal. Vonage uses Focal in our area, so that's why I was able to port in the first place. But it seems that most of the other (non-Vonage) Voip providers seem to prefer XO or Level3, or more to the point, any carrier but Focal.

We had been happy Vonage customers for over a year etc. We only switched to Vonage in order to keep our home phone number when we moved house a bit over a year ago. Cost wasn't a factor at all. We had minor but regular problems with Vonage but the annoyance factor was never too much to be a big drama. eg: for a while, they insisted that we do 11 digit dialing, even for numbers with the same prefixes. We also had the usual problems with faxes etc. But the real problem was anonymous calls. Vonage had no equivalent to SBC's privacy manager. After one 11pm and 5am anonymous call pair (from a computer dialer), that was the last straw.

We didn't want outright anonymous call rejection, because we have overseas family members where no callerid can be presented. We just missed the privacy manager type functionality.

So, I got the bright idea of using a computer to intercept the anon calls (or other blacklisted calls) and only let the normal ones ring through. I had become aware of the open source Asterisk PBX software and figured it would suit my needs just about perfectly. I work with computers and had spare parts laying around. I could get a FXO/FXS card from Digium. It all looked fine.

It worked brilliantly. After a bit of dialplan tinkering, the problem was solved. I had the Vonage ATA connected to the asterisk box with 12 inches of phone cable, then the rest of the house plugged into the other analog port. A bit of tinkering with transmit/recieve gain and tweaking the echo cancelling and it was ok. But we'd solved the late night/early morning calls. And that was great!

But then we caught the bug. Before long, we realized how convenient it would be to have phone extensions in the house. That wasn't any problem either. A couple of SIP phones, a few SIP ATA devices (sipura, grandstream and linksys PAP2-NA) later and we were all set. I work from home two days a week.

Then it happened. I was on the phone and my wife wanted to call out. Oops. Its funny how a simple thing like that got overlooked. She got dead silence and came to ask me what was wrong. At that point, we'd hit the ATA limitation so I started looking around.

There were three main types of Voip accounts "out there". There's the "unlimited" account (but usually there are limits), some cheaper accounts with a bunch of minutes included in the bundle, or simple no-frills pay-by-the-minute services.

The bigger service providers generally seem to want you to use a locked ATA. The others vary. Most prefer it but will often let you use your own hardware (or Asterisk PBX). Some will let you supply your own hardware and waive the setup/disconnect fees. Some do LNP, many don't. Most have limits on the number of concurrent sessions - usually it is two, so you can do a 3-way call. However, the by-the-minute ones generally don't restrict the number of sessions - the more you use, the more you pay. The going rate seems to be about 2 cents per minute.

What I'd initially done was to go to Voicepulse Connect's wholesale service to add additional incoming and outgoing connections to my Asterisk box for "overflow". I'd set my Vonage number to disable voicemail and forward "after 10 seconds" to my voicepulse number. With voicemail and call waiting turned off, it forwards instantly if the line is busy. Voila, incoming capacity solved.

Then I tweaked the dialplans to try the Vonage outgoing line first, then fall back to the voicepulse lines if the Vonage line was in use.

While I was there, I realized that my family in Australia didn't have to pay international calls if I got a local number in .au. A bit of tweaking and I added local call ability for there too.

Anyway, A couple of things became quickly apparent. That 12 inches of analog leg was really suboptimal. In fact, the whole ATA was sub optimal. I was getting noticably better voice quality on the all-digital voicepulse lines. I plugged a phone back into the ATA again to check if the Asterisk box was degrading it. To my suprise, even a direct phone line was still relatively poor compared to an all-digital connection. All this time I hadn't really been noticing the inferior Vonage call quality. (before you ask, I did not have any bandwidth saver stuff turned on).

It kind of annoyed me to have the Vonage device there, costing me much more than voicepulse, but sounding worse. I wanted it out of there.

And that is when things started getting messy. The voicepulse service had some annoying quirks too. They don't do CNAM lookups for presenting callerid names. And they didn't do any LNP at all. However, if I could have, I'd have switched to voicepulse if I could have ported my number. (Voicepulse use XO in our area, not Focal).

I looked further. About then, Broadvoice had their meltdown. They've been talking about LNP, but they use XO as well. So much for that one.

Then I found Teliax. They had unlimited sessions (2c/min), $5/month per phone number, no device restrictions at all and so on. It would have been perfect if it wasn't that they couldn't port my number either (Level3, not Focal). Aargh.

I was starting to think about a new phone number when another Asterisk user mentioned that he solved it by adding on a Vonage softphone account and having the primary number forward to the softphone. He also mentioned that he'd got his primary and softphone numbers swapped after a while. Anyway, I tried that, and so far it has worked very well. Except that I can't set the callerid on the softphone outbound calls to be my primary number. I guess that's why he got them swapped....

Anyway, the call quality has been excellent. Vonage (or focal?) do seem to do CNAM lookups here, so I get the correct callerid names. The voice quality has been like night and day compared to the analog ATA. And the amusing part is that the call forwarding is from one Vonage number to another, ie: free.

I reduced my plan to the $15/500/month plan and added the softphone $10/500/month for a total of $25/month. Except that right now I'm not using Vonage for outgoing calls at all, I'm still using teliax for outbound calls so that I can set the callerid to match my primary number.

It is currently convoluted but works. It amuses me though that I've got two plans with bundled minutes (1000 included total) that I'm not using. Instead I'm using a 3rd party which charges 2c/min just so I can set the callerid. If I can get the primary and softphone numbers swapped like the guy who suggested it to me did, then I'd use the 500 minutes from the softphone account instead, even though it costs more (4c/min) to go over the limit. I'm not worried though, I've only ever gone over 500 minutes once.

If I can get my numbers swapped, then I'll be set, and can go back to a single provider (Vonage) again.

But... just to keep things interesting, I've just found another provider who appears to be using Focal and thinks they can port my number. And they'll be doing something like a per-number charge and a 2c/min charge for outgoing calls.

BTW: we have a super-basic SBC phone line service as a backup. We use it for faxes, a modem backup, and we have Asterisk set up to route 911 calls there. We don't trust Vonage to ever get 911 right.

One thing is clear though, we're not going back to a dumb analog voice line. Having a tiny PBX at home is just too darn convenient. And fun. Smile

_________________
Vonage customer since March 2004. Customer of just about every other Voip provider out there too.
Asterisk PBX software, using Vonage softphone. ATA VT1005, rarely used.
ISP: Comcast (8M down, 768K up) *and* Sonic.net ADSL (1.5M down, 384K up) for Voip
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Richl
Vonage
Representative
Vonage<br>Representative


Joined: May 12, 2005
Posts: 28
Location: NJ

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 6:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

PM me your account info and I will put a request in for you to get the numbers swapped.
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peterwemm
Full Forum Member
Full Forum Member


Joined: Apr 15, 2004
Posts: 42
Location: Danville, CA, US

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Wow! PM sent.

I hope this means I can update and simplify my signature soon. Smile

_________________
Vonage customer since March 2004. Customer of just about every other Voip provider out there too.
Asterisk PBX software, using Vonage softphone. ATA VT1005, rarely used.
ISP: Comcast (8M down, 768K up) *and* Sonic.net ADSL (1.5M down, 384K up) for Voip
View user's profile Send private message
dconnor
Site Admin
Site Admin


Joined: Mar 05, 2003
Posts: 2263
Location: The Beach

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2005 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

peterwemm wrote:

I hope this means I can update and simplify my signature soon. Smile


Me too.

Smile

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