There’s nothing too remarkable in what I described in the first part of this article, but in recent firmwares, the FritzBox has added a new feature – a SIP server. That’s essentially a bit of software that allows the FritzBox to appear like an internet phone company, so you can use an internet phone to make calls via the FritzBox. You could, for example install Fring on an iPhone, or use Nokia’s built in software, so that when you’re at home, you can call from your mobile phone, via your landline, and use the mobile phone to answer calls made to your landline number.
If you want this functionality, you’ll need firmware version 54.04.76 or higher. If you’ve got a fairly standard setup (ie, using the FritzBox as your internet gateway) then everything should work fairly well. Go to the ‘Telephone devices’ section of the web interface, click to configure a new device, and tell the FritzBox that it’s a telephone, then on the next screen select ‘LAN/WLAN (IP telephone)’ as the interface, and add a name.
On the next screen you’ll see a number (620 for the first VoIP phone), and you can enter a password, and the information that the ‘registrar’ is “fritz.box”.
That should be all you need to set up your VoIP phone, and for most people it probably will be, because if the FritzBox is your internet gateway, it will tell devices its own IP address when they try to connect to “fritz.box.”
However, in my case, it just wouldn’t work. I tried resetting to factory defaults; I tried newer firmware, and I tried going back to firmware 54.04.76, which is what I’m using now. I simply couldn’t persuade my VoIP phones to register with the FritzBox.
I suspect that at heart, this is to do with the way my network is set up. I have fixed IP addresses, and I’m not using the FritzBox as my router; I have a separate broadband router, with a more flexible firewall than the FritzBox, and the fixed IP addresses are necessary for the move to VoIP – you don’t want inbound business calls failing because your IP address has changed, after all.
So, since the FritzBox isn’t looking after the network connections, there’s nothing on my network to tell devices what they should connect to when “fritz.box” is requested. Not a problem, I thought – I have a proper DNS entry that maps to the IP address of the FritzBox, so I can use that when I set things up. It works perfectly, for instance, when I want to connect to the web interface.
As I’ve discovered, however, it doesn’t work when you’re connecting to the built in SIP server in the FritzBox. Neither my VoIP phones nor the 3CX software system would register with the FritzBox server if they were set up to use the hostname; I thought I’d mistyped passwords, or needed to put ‘@fritz.box’ on the end of the username, all to no avail – and there’s not any decent English documentation for this new FritzBox feature.
In the end, it turns out, all I had to do was use the IP address of the FritzBox as the registrar name, and all is well, with VoIP phones connecting fine to the FritzBox, and able to use the ISDN line to make or receive calls.
Gateway to the world
Why’s all this so important, and why am I spending my weekends playing with it? After all, if I’m running 3CX, why don’t I connect all the VoIP phones to that? Well, that’s what I’m doing – but it’s also possible to connect 3CX to the FritzBox, so that 3CX thinks the FritzBox is a VoIP phone provider, and the FritzBox thinks that 3CX is a phone.
That may seem a bit odd, but what it’s actually doing is providing me with a full two way gateway between the two devices.
It means that when a call comes in from the BT line, it can be passed into 3CX, and also – this is the main thing I wanted to achieve – that calls can be passed out of 3CX and on to the BT line. When the ISDN line is switched off, that will be the BT analogue line, which I still have to have for the ADSL service.
And since it’s there, it may as well be used. I can set up 3CX so that some 3 digit numbers go to the BT line automatically, for example. That ensures that if anyone dials 999, the call will go to a line that the emergency services can identify easily.
It’s also possible to arrange for the BT line to be used when the VoIP services via the internet aren’t working, providing me with fallback, again essential in emergencies.
You can, of course, do this with various other VoIP adaptors, some of which are cheaper than the £170 or so you’ll pay for the Fritz!Box Fon Wlan 7270, but if you want all the functionality – including the ability to work with ISDN phones too – then it’s pretty hard to beat.