Asterisk in School

I need some infrastructure advice.

My wife is a teacher in a Special Needs school that is being expanded in size. As part of the rebuild the teachers are keen to implement an internal phone system so that the children can learn to use the phone. These are vulnerable kids so it has to be self contained with no external access. As always, money is tight so we’re looking for low cost solutions otherwise the project won’t get implemented. As there is a school lan with a PC in every classroom Asterisk/VOIP appears to be a potential solution. We could buy in a second hand server to host Fedora/Asterisk. My issue is in determining what telephone handset would be feasible. Standalone VOIP handsets are too expensive (from what I can see approx £200 in the UK). The ideal solution would be a USB VOIP phone that could plug in to the classroom PC. There are a lot out there (as low as £10 each) - but they all seem to announce their Skype computability and not much else. Can anyone offer any phone hardware advice? The important thing is to ensure that the phones have a handset and buttons for number dialling - ie a headset plus software only phone is unlikely to satisfy the requirement.


how about using a SIP or IAX2 ATA and a regular phone ? i’ve been picking up the cheaper PA168-based ones for less than a tenner on eBay recently, and although the quality isn’t brilliant, it’s not bad. no PC required either. just plug in an analogue phone … and you can pick these up for a couple of quid, or a fiver at Tesco !

i generally give them to friends and family so they can use my free calls/cheaper calls to mobiles and we can have big noisy conferences :smiley:

Thanks for the quick reply. I’m not a voice telecoms guy so excuse me if I’m asking idiot questions. I had a look on ebay and identified a ‘VoIP IAX2 IP Phone’ selling at £25.

Am I right in thinking that such a 'phone would simply plug in to the ethernet LAN via the standard ethernet socket?

I assume that these 'phone are individually set up via their key pad ('phone IP address, server IP address etc?). Is this likely to be the sort of thing that can be made kid proof 'cause unless the configuration is password protected they’ll find a way of changing things?

Also, some of the school is likely to be covered by a wireless lan, I assume that in that situation, I’ll be back to looking at usb VOIP connected to a PC?

sure, that would work … just plug straight into the LAN. most have some kind of protection to stop people from changing settings, and you will probably be able to configure them via an in-built web server.

i just had a quick look on eBay, there is a seller with listings for 3 ATAs (group3technology) … i’ve purchased from him in the past and he’s been easy to deal with. he’s put his starting price up a lot though … i guess me buying a load at a fiver each wasn’t what he was expecting :smiley:

the ATA’s are setup via a browser, and you canusually load different firmwares for the technology you prefer (SIP/IAX2/H323).

for the wireless areas you could use another AP in client-mode … but that makes it a lot more expensive per phone. if there is (just about) any kind of cabling available you can use it to connect a phone to an ATA.

Welcome! I think Asterisk can provide what you need…

As for ATAs you can usually get them new for around $50us for two ports, less if you buy in bulk. That’s new, as bacon said you can probably find ebay ones for less. However you must also factor into the cost the cost of a PHONE- each ATA port needs a physical telephone at the end of it. This can be a cheapo wall mount phone for around $10 but at least realize it’s there.

IP phones you can also get pretty cheaply, the Grandstream BT100 you can get for around $40/each (USD). The BT1xx isn’t a great phone by any means, and I’d highly recommend the slightly more capable $60 BT200 if you can hack it, but they aren’t BAD.

Whatever you get, try to get something that supports remote provisioning by some sort of non-stupid format, or at least something you will have access to. A few manufacturers (LINKSYS) will refuse to help you at all with remote provisioning unless you are a VoIP service provider. The info for linksys is available, no thanks to Linksys, from some other site. Grandstream is decent, they have a converter tool which processes data into config files for the phone.

Also, almost all of the stuff can be config-disabled. This is because when it’s used in a managed environment such as a business or as something a VoIP provider sends its customer, the administrator will want to be able to lock out changes.