I’ve made quite a bit of progress with Asterisk over the past couple nights. At this point, it’s doing about 90% of what I want it to do:

  • Sends local/toll free calls via our POTS phone line.
  • Sends long distance calls via NuFone VoIP.
  • Receives incoming calls on the POTS line.
  • Receives incoming calls from NuFone via an 800 number.
  • Receives faxes (but only from inside right now).
  • Does voice mail (and then emails a copy to the owner).
  • Talks to SIP softphones on various PCs and Macs around the house.
  • Talks to traditonal analog phones in the house.
  • Internal phones can call out by just dialing the number, no ‘9’ prefix required.
  • Internal phones can call each other by dialing their extension.

A few things still remain:

  • When the POTS line is busy, incoming calls should be forwarded to the 800 number.
  • When the POTS line is busy, outgoing calls should go out via NuFone.
  • Incoming calls that go to voicemail should have the option to leave messages specifically for various members of the household.
  • There should also be a way to check messages over the phone from outside.
  • Asterisk can tell when it answers a fax call; faxes from outside should be shunted to its fax-handling code.
  • Asterisk’s fax code needs to email faxes when it receives them.
  • International calling currently goes out via POTS, when NuFone is less then half the cost.

I also have a few wish-list items:

  • RSS for voicemail and call log.
  • Print-to-fax.
  • vCard to Asterix caller-ID database mapping.

I should probably expand on NuFone–they’re a cheap VoIP provider that specializes in Asterisk. They don’t offer anything particularly fancy–they’re just cheap and they work. Like VoicePulse Connect, they only offer pre-paid pay-by-the-minute plans. You send them $10 or so, and then you’re good for around 5 hours of US calling. They charge $0.029/minute for calls to the continental US; Alaska and Hawaii are a bit more expensive. Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Singapore are a bit cheaper. So are Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Taipei. Most of Europe seems to be under $0.05/minute.

You can get incoming calls from them, but they only offer local numbers for part of Michigan. They do sell 800 numbers, though. Vanity numbers or number transfers are $25; random numbers are free. You just pay $0.029/minute for incoming calls.

The sound quality through NuFone over my slow Verizon DSL line is pretty good. If I had a better DSL line, it’d probably sound better. As it is, I’m using a low-bandwidth codec so I don’t overflow my 128k upstream, and Verizon still drops packets every now and then. It’s not enough to bother me, but it’s noticable if you go looking for it. If my cell phone is a ‘1’ and a good analog line was a ‘10’, then this is an 8 or 9. I’m pretty happy with it.