Our first month all-VOIP

It was about a month ago that I switched our land line number, which we have had for many years, to VOIP.  After running my work and Hamgadgets numbers over VOIP for a couple of years, I figured I had things worked out well enough to handle the home line without hassles as well.

The only complication that arose prior to making the switch was due to the Linux distribution I’m running.  I decided on CentOS a couple of years ago because of its long term support; I didn’t want to have to rebuild my server every year or so.  Well, great — but just because the base OS is supported doesn’t mean anything else will be.  The DAHDI kmod (kernel drivers for the analog phone line interface card) packages stopped getting updated about a year or so ago.  So, I could either run an increasingly out of date kernel, build the kernel modules by hand (every time the kernel gets updated), rebuild the entire server, or just dump DAHDI.

I settled on the last option.  After some cursory research I ordered an Obihai OBi200.  This little hockey puck sized device has one POTS line jack, one POTS phone jack, an Ethernet port and a USB port.  There’s a USB wifi dongle for it that I also ordered.  It’s been a perfect solution.  Now our household cordless phones are seamlessly connected to the Asterisk server over wifi.

So far there have been zero complaints from anyone, including myself.  Incoming calls to our house number arrive via VOIP and ring both the household cordless phones, and the Cisco phone on my desk.  I have Asterisk voicemail turned on with a delay long enough that the caller will get the phone’s answering machine if we aren’t home, but if we’re on the phone the Asterisk system will take a message.  The only thing I really want to change: I can’t pick up the house line on my office phone if the call has already been answered on the house cordless phone, and vice versa.  It’s not as easy a fix as you’d think, but it’s also not a big deal.  I can transfer the call if needed.

The real story is told by  two things.  First, our total cost for phone service with Cox was $41.59 per month (assuming no long distance charges at all).  The first month on Flowroute cost us less than $11 (including long distance), not counting the $7.50 charge to port the number.  Second, if I had not told her about the change, I don’t think Lisa would have even known…  except that caller ID no longer shows up on the TV when a call comes in.  I don’t miss it.

So aside from saving $30 a month, what do we gain?  Well, a few nice things.  We have quite a few blacklisted numbers from telemarketers and scam callers.  Before the switch the cordless phone would recognize up to 30 of them and drop the call AFTER it rang a couple of times.  Now the call gets silently refused and we never even know it happened.  I can also re-route calls to our cell phones, either in place of or instead of the house phones.  FAX reception is automatic, with received FAXes emailed to Lisa and I both in PDF format.  The list goes on, but overall — it’s a win.

So, our first month since about 1980 or so without a wired phone line, and no regrets.