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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 12:47 pm    Post subject: Flex Your Brain Muscles - How do ATA's work? Reply with quote Back to top

Greetings,

Here's a question that is not specific to Vonage, how does an ATA communicate through the internet to get to the phone system?

I've been pondering this for some time and at work our ATA's that are hooked to a fax server are starting to hickup, it's had me searching the net to figure out how they work. Where do their numbers get set at? We have a Voip telephone system which is why we need ATA's to fax.

I'm all ears, and please feel free to get technical, if I don't under stand it the first time, I'll make myself understand it!

Dave
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

I am no expert, but I can get the ball rolling.

What may have you asking some of these questions is exposure to Vonage ATA's which have limited customer functionality.

All of these settings are stored in the ATA and in typical situation might be set by the user. In Vonage's case they store a configuration identified using the ATA's MAC address. The configuration is retrieved using TFTP.

If you want to understand how an ATA work you can start by looking at a software client that uses SIP. The ATA works in essentially the same way.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 6:24 pm    Post subject: Some pertinent questions Reply with quote Back to top

Here's some direct questions:

How does an ATA turn dial tones into routing data?

How is an analogue signal translated into a datastream?

Would there be any way to come up with a digital fax machine?

Dave
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 6:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The ATA has both a DTMF detector and a DTMF generator. DTMF tones are simple to recognize so the ATA detects them and generates a SIP message to send out a SIP request to dial a number.

It is relevant at this point to mention that the ATA can also generate other tones (dial tones, busy signals, stutter dial tones, etc.)

The same technology that is used to capture audio in your computer or mobile phone is in use. The audio is sampled every fraction of a second and measured and turned into a digital sample. Those digital samples are then encoded into an RTP data stream. In Vonage's case three different algorithms are used based on the bandwidth settings, the best quality one is G.711.

(Warning: Some of the following is not fact checked)
A digital fax machine is possible. A special purpose SIP client that took an electronic document and represented it as a tiff image would be used. You would then need to pass it through V.17, T.30 or T.4 to generate the stream of audio data (represented digitally). You would then pass that data through G.711 to generate the SIP RTP audio stream. The whole thing would be wrapped in a SIP client for dialing. I have oversimplified the situation because the fax protocols are a two way communication standard for error correction, and negotiation, but hopefully you get the idea.

The actual way SIP hopes to handle faxes is to recognize the fax tones, skip the audio compression in G.711 and convert the analog fax signal directly back into it's digital representation (ie. you would fax to your ATA). Your ATA would carry that digital representation to the edge of the SIP network and then refax it out over the POTS network for you.

So, if you are trying to build a true digital fax you can not do it unless you control both ends of the SIP network. If you do control both ends then you need a server on each end that would have a fax modem connected via a line eliminator (generates a dial tone, recognizes DTMF) to the fax machine. Your line eliminator would have to have some way of indicating the destination to your fax server (caller ID?). Your fax server upon receiving the message would need to transmit it (TFTP?) to the opposite fax server that would then fax it out over the analog network. You can see why it is easier to eliminate the initial fax server and use a service like eFax.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

scerruti wrote:
So, if you are trying to build a true digital fax you can not do it unless you control both ends of the SIP network. If you do control both ends then you need a server on each end that would have a fax modem connected via a line eliminator (generates a dial tone, recognizes DTMF) to the fax machine. Your line eliminator would have to have some way of indicating the destination to your fax server (caller ID?). Your fax server upon receiving the message would need to transmit it (TFTP?) to the opposite fax server that would then fax it out over the analog network. You can see why it is easier to eliminate the initial fax server and use a service like eFax.


Most of the higher-end copy machines today have built-in fax machines and most of the newer ones support direct scanning to PDF & automatic e-mailing. I think this type of system probably will replace fax machines in the next 10 or so years rather than a newer style fax machine.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

I would tend to agree that they will probably become dominant over time, however compatibility with legacy fax machines is going to remain a requirement for a long time.

Email to Fax services will probably be used to bridge the gap with service being provided by the machine vendors as part of the lease (corporate environment).

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