Using the FritzBox as a VoIP gateway

As I mentioned in ‘Making an entrance’, I’m part way through moving my phone system from BT’s overpriced ISDN service to VoIP – that’s phone calls over the internet, to the uninitiated.

I already have some ISDN phones; these allow things like multiple lines on the same phone, so business and personal calls are signalled differently, and I wanted to keep those, rather than spend around £70 to replace each one with a new VoIP phone.

Step forward the Fritz!Box FON WLAN 7270, which has just about every connection you need. It’s a broadband router, with WiFi, built in DECT basestation for cordless phones, and VoIP support.

There are two analogue phone sockets on the back, into which you can plug your existing handsets, and then a connection goes to either your ISDN or your standard BT line, so calls made on those phones will go out over BT line in the usual way.

So far, that’s nothing too dramatic. But it also allows you to sign up to VoIP services, and make and receive calls over the internet, using the same handsets; you can even set up rules, for example sending international calls via the internet, and emergency calls via the BT line.

There’s another ISDN socket on the box too, which allows me to connect my existing ISDN desk phones, and use them to make calls too. On top of that, it’s a standard broadband router, with USB disk and printer sharing too.

State of play

At the moment, I have the FritzBox plugged into my ISDN line. The analogue and ISDN phones plugged into it all make calls over the ISDN line; when that’s disconnected in a month or so, I can plug the analogue line which provides my broadband connection into the back instead, and make calls over that from any of the phones.

I also have the entry phone plugged into one of the sockets on the back, as I explained earlier. That would be enough for some people, but I want something a bit more advanced. That comes in the shape of a software phone system called 3CX, which is what will ultimately be handling the new phone service I’m switching too.

I’m going for 3CX rather than Asterisk because, frankly, it’s much easier to get to grips with. The free edition will be fine for my one man business, though it doesn’t have a built in fax server, which is a shame.

So, at the moment, the FritzBox has been set up with a few internet telephone accounts; normally these would be with a provider like Sipgate or VoIPTalk, but in this case they’re just extensions on 3CX.

On the FritzBox, most phones are configured to call via the ISDN line, but I’ve set the entry phone to use 3CX, which means that I can do things like have several phones ring when the entry phone button is pushed, instead of just one, which is all the FritzBox would do.

Some of the ISDN phones are configured with an additional ‘MSN’, or extension number, which corresponds to an extension on the 3CX system. The net effect is that when you ring the entry phone, it rings on the cordless handset, the phone on my desk, and the phone by my bed, so if I’m in the garden, I can let guests in without moving from my deckchair.

So, that’s where things are now. In part two, I’ll explain the next stage, which relies on a handy new feature in recent FritzBox firmware updates.

FritzBox Fon WLAN 7270
The Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7270 is the link between existing phones and the new world of VoIP - and a pretty feature-packed broadband router, too

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