FreePBX extension choices

When you use a FreePBX server there are various options you have when choosing a device for making calls.

Here are some of them …

Physical desk phone

Yealink T22

Yealink T22

A physical VOIP desk phone connects to your FreePBX server over a broadband connection. One of my current favourites is the Yealink T22P pictured here. It has softkeys for selecting things like do-not-disturb and call history. There are 3 lines so you can do things like conference in another caller to an ongoing call. The sound quality is great and there is also a built-in speaker phone.

There are other makes and models, ranging from phones with no display to those with full colour displays. Any phone that is ‘SIP compatible’ should work, but some phones will work better with FreePBX, especially things like the voicemail waiting light and the softkey menus.

If you are rolling out a lot of phones it’s worth checking the phone is compatible with the FreePBX module called End Point Manager. This allows you to configure and manage phones centrally (on the FreePBX server) rather than configuring each phone individually.

The phone pictured here costs around £80 GBP.

Benefits : Fairly straight forward to configure. Good sound quality. Lots of features.

Negatives : Can be expensive

ATA adapter

Linksys ATA

Linksys ATA

An ATA adapter is a device that turns a traditional analogue phone in to a VOIP phone. You plug your phone in to the ATA, and your ATA in to your broadband router.

The ATA will connect to your FreePBX server as a regular SIP extension. This can be useful in certain situations, maybe you have specific handsets that you want to continue to use. Also some ATAs will also allow you to plug in a regular PSTN telephone line. This could be use as a backup should your broadband connection go down.

It may also be possible to plug a fax machine in to an ATA and use it to send/receive faxes via your FreePBX server. However, while this can work, sending faxes over VOIP is not always reliable.

Another good use is if you have a DECT handset that you want to turn in to a VOIP handset.

An ATA would cost around £50 GBP

Benefits : No need to ‘learn’ a new phone. May work with fax machines.

Negatives : Can be as expensive as a cheap VOIP handset. Need a power socket near the phone for the ATA. Can be difficult to configure.

DECT / VOIP base stationGigaset N300IP

You may think that if you wanted a ‘wireless’ phone at home or in the office it would make sense to look for one that worked over your broadband WiFi connection. Unfortunately WiFi is a very poor choice for VOIP calls due to interference. A much better option is to use DECT for this wireless part, and then your broadband connection to connect to the FreePBX server.

Pictured here is a Gigaset N300IP, which will work as a base station for up to 6 compatible DECT handsets, and allow 2 VOIP calls at the same time. I’ve not used this model myself, but do have a previous model which works very well.

A base station plus single DECT handset would cost around £80

Benefits : Uses DECT for the wireless part of the call, a technology specifically designed for phone calls

Negatives : Could be complex to configure, especially if you go for multiple DECT handsets on a single base station

iPhone or Android App (soft client)

Bria Android - VoIP Softphone

Bria Android – VoIP Softphone

There are several applications for both iPhone and Android phones that work as a SIP client. There are both paid-for and free applications. Any that are SIP compatible and not tied to a specific call provider should work.

The one pictured here is Bria from Counterpath.

Some clients will integrate with the phone more than others. Making things like your contacts available, or choosing whether to call via VOIP or GSM when calling a contact.

Do bear in mind that when you are making a VOIP call from an application like this the IP data with be going over either 3G/4G or WiFi. Neither of these are specifically designed for VOIP calls and you could suffer with interference. It can work very well indeed – I have made calls from New Zealand to the UK using an application like this over 3G and the calls were perfect. You would have struggled to tell that they were not landline to landline calls. But if you have poor signal reception or are on the move (especially between GSM towers) call quality will likely be poor.

If you are going to do this ensure you are aware of any data limits, especially on 3G/4G connections. Also it may be against the terms of service on your mobile phone contract.

The cost starts at free

Benefits : Ultimate in flexibility

Negatives : Requires a good 3G/4G/WiFi signal, even then call quality may not be good. Beware data limits!

PC soft phone

x-lite

x-lite

Another option to a standard desk phone is to use a software phone on your PC/Mac/Linux computer.

The one pictured here is x-lite from Counterpath. This can be a good choice for users that spend a lot of time on the phone. Maybe a contact centre agent or receptionist.

While it’s possible to use the built-in speakers and microphone on a laptop the results will be poor. Much better would be to get a USB headset/microphone combination designed for this. I have a Plantronics Audio 655 which works well, but may not be comfortable to wear for long periods.

The major downside of this solution is that, obviously, your PC must be switched on to make and receive calls. It could be a good solution if you travel with a laptop that you can plug in to a wired internet connection.

Benefits : No or little cost. Flexible.

Negatives : PC must be switched on to make/receive a call.

Dial In and call bouncing

Non smart phone

Non smart phone

Finally an option that is not a VOIP device at all, but a way to call in to your system and then dial back out again. In FreePBX this is called DISA (Direct Inward System Access). This allows you to call in to your system from a regular landline or mobile phone, and get a dial tone. You can then dial back out again as if you were on a regular system extension.

This could be useful if you want to present a specific caller ID, or maybe all of your calls get recorded. It can also be used to make an international call at your FreePBX system rates.

Security is a very serious consideration when setting this up. You should ensure any access numbers are password/pin protected.

A similar option is to ‘bounce’ an incoming call back out again, to a fixed number. This is like the option above, but without the security worries of providing an unrestricted dial tone. This option can be really useful for making international calls at local rates. You could have a UK DDI number which, when called, rang an international number. I’ve used this a lot to make international VOIP calls from my mobile, by dialling a local UK access telephone number.

Benefits : A great way to make cheap international calls or where a VOIP phone is not available

Negative : Security implications should be considered

4 thoughts on “FreePBX extension choices

  1. Samael

    As I have used lot of phones (I work as VoIP PBX installer), I have to say, that Yealink is very unstable and have many truobles with quiality of assembling. Also, nearly 10% of fresh-new, unopened from local distributor is in not-working condition.
    My choice is LG-Erricsson 8002/8802 for low-cost and Polycom for everything else.

    For mobile softphone I prefer CSipSimple for Android, cause it have SILK8, that works good even on 2G.

    Also, for PC softphone, I think the best is 3CX, cause x-lite have advertisment, and it’s a little annoying.

  2. matt Post author

    Thanks for the tip. I haven’t looked at CSipSimple, but will do. I also like the 3CX client, the Android version too.

  3. Roel Prinsen

    Hello Matt(?),

    On the site http://sysadminman.net/blog/2013/freepbx-extension-choices-5184 you talked about connecting a Gigaset N300IP (or other simulair dect station) to FreePBX.
    You also mentioned: Could be complex to configure, especially if you go for multiple DECT handsets on a single base station.
    Do you have some screenshots / config settings for FreePBX V3 howto config such an Gigaset basestation?

    Regards,

    Roel

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