My current project: PlugPBX


Senior Member
Let me start by saying - I hate phones.... I don't want to be on them except when I need to. What's worse? I *really* hate cell phones! Not the technology or even the idea of being reachable - more the fact that quality seems to be getting worse over the years, not better. Home phone lines are clearer, but honestly - paying $35+/month for a phone I average under 60 minutes on per month? Not for me.

What's worse is I'm used to business phone systems - having them, installing them, maintaining them - and recently even going 100% cisco voip. Now that's spoiled - a single phone number can ring 30 places; or can be routed around to others; people can dial special codes to get routed to your cell phone, etc. Need a fax? No biggie - grab number off the DID pool and add an analog adapter - there's no impact to the bil other than the few minutes the line is in use.

Well - in my home office, I've decided it's time to finally do something similar. I've been watching Asterisk for some time, but didn't want to have another computer running 24/7 - especially as we're about to enter the summer months which tend to come with $700/month electric bills. The other day, I came across this site: - it's an installation of Asterisk with FreePBX running on those cool little wall-wart computers (the SheevaPlug). I finally decided to dive in.

To start with, I ordered the sheevaplug and a Linksys SPA3102 so I can tie in my existing line and get an analog port out for the cordless phones. The last parts came in today.

In about an hour I had FreePBX running - though nowhere near 100% - I still need to add sip phones, tie my sip provider back in, etc... but thanks to Dan's suggestion I play with a VM while I was waiting for parts, I already did this using an AsteriskNOW VM the other day, so this is all pretty familiar (I've only been doing this for 3 days total and I had a softphone making outbound sip calls to my cell phone 2 days ago).

The best part? Cost. I chose the pay-per-minute model - it gives you more flexibility and I'll hardly use minutes anyways. I signed up with - got a good local phone number - and it'll support (out of the box) up to 25 incoming channels and 5 outbound channels - and all I pay is the $0.99/month for each phone number I want and $.0125/minute usage. I have my own voicemail and outlook integration with voicemail; or can redirect voicemail to google-voice; I can add a fax line for $.99/month - and I only pay for my actual usage. In most cases it'll be under $4/month.

If you're interested, check it out! Either way - with the Sheevaplug or AsteriskNOW it's easy enough to get up in running. I don't know linux at all and with creative googling I'm getting through it just fine.

Now all that's left is buying a couple of really nice high end SIP phones - I'm thinking some of the aastra ones that'll compare to the executive phones from work.


Senior Member
This project will be something I look more into in the next few months thanks for jumping in first :)

Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk


Active Member
Not to take away from your project, but I was in a similar postition 7 months ago and was considering checking out Asterisk installed on my DD-WRT router. Instead, I found a great deal on the last of the Ooma VoIP boxes with no monthly fees (not even taxes) and unlimited talk and picked it up for somewhere around $140. I didn't have time to sit on the fence with it and I would of had to buy more hardware for Asterisk anyway as my SIP box was locked.

I still would be interested to hear about your install and configuration setup - were there any little quirks you needed to figure out or was it pretty straight forward (look at it as someone who didn't implement PBX systems before :D )


Active Member
I wrote a chapter on Asterisk and I found it works great. The only place I had trouble was the POTS line with the SPA. The software echo cancellation kept getting out of sync and we'd get bouts of echo that would fade and come back and fade (rinse, lather, repeat). The hardware echo cancelers are very expensive so that wasn't an option for me. I'm now considering just dropping the POTS line so I haven't setup the PBX since.


Senior Member
Very interesting. I have been considering installing Asterisk on a router or ??.

I have had Vonage for about 6 years and they have been pretty reliable. But I would like to get something cheaper if it is as reliable.

For I find the rate info on their site a bit confusing - Pretty simple really but I fear I may be missing something. I think we use about 500 minutes a month of outgoing. So total for would be roughly $5 for outgoing calls and $5 for number and incoming calls - that's $10 (plus taxes and fees) total? I would save about $180 in the first year which would about pay for the equipment (router, USB HD, and ATA). I have a bit of linux experience but far from an expert. I had narrowed my voip providers down a few months ago but the one year commitment put me off a bit - I can't remember off hand who my choice was at that point. Looks like doesn't have that issue.

The other issue is phones. I currently just have a bunch of 2 line phones - both corded and cordless - for a POTS line and Vonage. They are starting to have issues so am thinking of replacing them but don't want to spend too much money. I think if I had an adapter such as the SPA3102 I could still use my existing phones for now.

Any pointers for a voip newbie? Whatever I do it needs to have high WAF. :) That probably includes working like a traditional phone.


Senior Member
Remember also that you can install asterisk on pretty much any of the pogoplug devices such as the dockstar which was discussed in a long thread here. It has been as cheap as $9.99 although it is discontinued now. Also many routers with USB ports can run asterisk. And you can use google voice numbers as full incoming/outgoing lines for no fees. There are a lot of discussions about this on various sites. But overall it is a great way to take control of your phone system. And once you have it running there are a lot of ways to integrate it with your home automation system. For example my asterisk talks to my ISY-99 both to accept commands via phone and to ring phones as alerts. Have fun.


Senior Member
video321: I actually have one of the newer Ooma boxes - I recommend those to anyone who doesn't want to do something like this for home service - it's a great replacement for traditional land-line service and while mine isn't free, I'm paying about $3.50/month.

JimS: it's hard to believe how affordable it is - I'm doing purely pay-as-you-go so $.0125/minute for calls and $0.99/month per phone number I want; and that's got some serious functionality behind it - 3 people in your home can pick up a phone and make calls without needing more lines; or several calls can come in at once if you want... provided you're using a sip phone or multiple SPA's or ATA's.

Linuxha - yeah, after I ordered the SPA I saw a handful of reviews that said it really sucked. If you can get to 100% digital/sip you'll have amazing call quality. Since I already paid for it I'll see what happens. It seems to be hit and miss on that thing.

And az1324 - that was an initiall selling point to me going with this - I saw all over the place that people were doing GV integration - and I've come to use my GV number quite a bit lately... however, in the last few weeks I guess everyone using gizmo5 for their GV integration got a notice that it's about to be discontinued. The new way seems to be some google talk integration that's part of asterisk 1.8 - so I'll have to look at that soon. Right now I'm only running 1.6. The alternative is to buy a dedicated DID number and forward all GV calls to that number - and have the pbx automatically answer and enter the 1 to accept the call - then route it through your phone system. Remember with SIP you can specify anything you want for your outbound CID so you can set it to your GV number. That's the way I'm leaning towards.

So today I spent maybe 2 hours tinkering with it - if that. In time I got full incoming and outgoing calls going through my SIP softphone. I got all the rules figured out so I can dial 7 or 10 digits so it's still familiar with local calls (many parts of the country are now 10-digit always; we're still 7 for local). I left mine where you have to dial 9 from the SIP phones because that's what I'm used to - I'm undecided on the house phones as of yet. This does take some good googling and troubleshooting but I think anyone who's good at figuring things out will be just fine doing it. Just expect it'll be a few days of tinkering.

I'll say that if you want a cool phone system with all the features and all that - this is a fun project. I'll be able to do so much - and by going with SIP phones I'll get that wideband call quality I want so bad. I'm going to spend more on the handsets to get good ones - but since I won't be paying but a few bucks each month it's worth it to me.

If you're not up for all the hassles and *only* want to reduce your phone bill - well, I'd go for the ooma - for what it is, it's an awesome price - and it's quick and easy and pays for itself in just a couple months.


Senior Member
I think before I was looking at Broadvoice since I had seen good reviews and they allowed BYOD. But it looks like there are much cheaper plans and the 12 month commitment put me off a bit. Need to do a little more looking at reviews I guess...

Am I right that would be about $10 + fees for a number and 500 minutes of outgoing calls?

The google voice stuff is interesting but it looks like this is still changing and I don't want to have to continue to adjust things as it changes. And if it breaks from time to time because of changes that lowers the WAF significantly. I might give gv a try as a second provider and perhaps get a number in another location where extended family are.

For decent quality SIP phones what do you recommend? Cost is obviously a factor but I don't want to hassle with stuff that doesn't work well. Even with a POTS line and a voip line I still would need just single line phones? Does using SIP phones totally eliminate the echo problems (such as with the SPA3102) I have read about?

The ooma box pays for itself in a couple months? Am I missing some special deal? The prices I see are over $200. I could save about $25/month. That's still pretty good but more like 8 months.

Now if I could just drop the local POTS line but DSL seems like the cheapest way to get my internet connection.


Active Member
The ooma box pays for itself in a couple months? Am I missing some special deal? The prices I see are over $200. I could save about $25/month. That's still pretty good but more like 8 months.
OK...some maybe he should have said few instead of a couple ;)
As I posted, I got mine for around $140 with the scout unit too, but those deals are long gone now. Before Ooma I had Vonage for 6 yrs. and Comcast for 1 yr. Ooma is right there with Comcast for voice quality.


Active Member
I sounds like I would need to hook up with a SIP provider to make the end connection. Free PBX looks like to be $25 for a trunk plus $.99 a DID. Or at less per line plus a per minute charge. H

1. How does taxes play in to this. I seem a big cost of my phone bill is the FCC per line charge and related taxes. Do those per line charge apply to these type of lines?

2. Fax support. What is the best way to support incoming and outgoing faxes? I don't do a lot of faxing but as a landlord I do get incoming faxes from time to time and once in a while need to do outgoing..


Senior Member
Yes - a "few" months is more accurate. My local phone bill reached about $40/month and I used under 100 minutes/month. 5 months pays for a $200 Ooma box.

I don't have personal experience with anything other than Cisco phones yet, but I'll be looking to the Aastra line (Cisco is actually more trouble than it's worth to make work on SIP IMHO). There's the grandstream phones as well - but they seem pretty cheap. has awesome pricing - better than ebay for this stuff and you're buying brand new factory authorized through them.

For people with DSL this is of course less appealing since your internet requires a phone line. In my last house I had cable, and here I have FTTH (Fiber).

SipStation (freepbx) wants $25 for a two-way trunk with unlimited minutes; each phone number is $1/month on top of that. You can have 1 number or 100.

Voip.MS is what I'm using - they had good reviews where I looked. You fill up your account - a minimum of $25 at a time - they'll alert you when it drops below your set threshold - mine is $10 (they take paypal or credit card). They have 2 options for DID - Either $4.95/month for unlimited (it's really 3500 minutes) inbound with 2-channels or $.99/month with no free calls - and it will burst up to 25 channels - with calls at $.010/minute. Outbound is $.0125 (for their premium routing) or $0.0105 for their value routing (I went premium).

So - do the math - say you have one inbound phone number - you'll pay a max of $5 - just decide if you want pay-as-you-go or unlimited. If you use more than 400 minutes inbound go with unlimited. For outbound, if you use another 500 minutes, it's $6.25 for a total bill of $11.25. So far it doesn't look like there's any taxes either (maybe because they're canadian based?).

Optional Features:
CallerID Name Lookup - $.08/query
e911 - $1.50/month (direct pass-through of their cost)

They have a lot of other features too - like ivr, voicemail, hold music, etc - but those aren't required if you send everything into a pbx; alternatively you could sign up with them and buy an ATA and not even roll your own phone system - just use the features they provide.


Staff member
I just purchased a DID as well, but used the free Windows based 3CX software. Works pretty well so far, and very light weight. Will probably move it to my Home Automation machine once I am done playing. I do have a dockstar still new-in-the-box, so will give that a shot with Asterisk once I have more time. Definitely keep us posted!


Senior Member
It may be doable but for alarm if you really wanted to go over analog, I'd invest in a better quality ATA than that cheapo SPA3102... then again, I used the better Cisco ATA's at work for fax machines and slower modems - and they were a PITA too - pretty unreliable and had to be reset often.

Since I'm going all digital over the internet I see no reason to emulate an analog line for the alarm when it can talk native IP now.

Not quite related - but apparently you can get Asterisk to emulate a CS and define your own actions... could be fun for someone to tinker with if they aren't paying for real monitoring. http://www.voip-info...d+AlarmReceiver

Last night I was tinkering and managed to pretty much hose my PlugPBX by updating too many things... luckily I had backed up the SD card just before and was able to restore easily. In the end I successfully got a Cisco phone dialing in and out via SIP - which is harder than you'd think since Cisco isn't exactly going for interperability with their business phones. Call quality is great - even when calling a cell phone there's no real perceivable delay (I think there's less delay than calling a landline from a cell). I'm quite pleased so far - now I just need time on the system to judge its overall performance.