Long-distance options/tricks for NWT (Canada)?

Hello all,

I’m working on a voip/asterisk solution for a business in the Northwest Territories (in Canada), trying among other things to cut down their considerable long distance bill.

There’s quite a lack of voip providers that service this area (if you know of one I’d love to hear…Primus supposedly services us, but not SIP) and I was wondering if it’s possible/feasible to script AGI to use the cheap and plentiful long distance calling cards everyone uses up here?

The auto-attendant system on these cards vary for each of the calling card carriers (ie-Telus, Vox, Safeway, etc, etc) but they all basically operate like this: dial 800 access number>at prompt enter PIN>at next prompt dial your destination. Now it seems to me that there might be a way to use AGI such that I can buy a bunch of cards, manually input the pin numbers, such that when an office worker picks up an extension and dials long-distance, asterisk transparently does the calling card operation. Am I nucking futs or is this do-able?

I’ve spent the day looking for hooks on how to get around their +/- $10,000 a month long distance bill (I’m not joking), and I’ll scream if I find one more link that shows me how to setup my own calling card business in my basement. It might be relevant info as well, most of that ginormous LD bill is on LD calls within the province, so setting up a SIP gateway in Vancouver/Calgary/Timbuktu and buying voip service there doesn’t really solve it as 95+% of the calls would need to come back up to no man’s land dogsled territory up here in NWT.

Thanks for any ideas on this!


Out of the box, the Asterisk@home build comes with a complete calling card solution. Download that build, throw it on a machine, then goto a VoIP provider to get some LD ‘trunks’. For example, Voipjet.com.

Provided that you have some reasonable internet bandwidth…and i’m not talking very much, but something reasonable, you can carry a fair number of calls with reasonable quality with proper compression techniques.

With the above set up (and it could be set up in like 1 hour) you are ready to start making calls. With some time, you can learn how the billing calling card system works and you are in business.

sorry if I wasn’t clear on that post…but I’m not looking to make a business of selling calling cards, but I was wondering if instead of the customer having to pickup a phone and dial 1800ETC1234, enter PIN then enter destination number, if Asterisk could do that for them? (as calling cards are about the only cheap long distance available to us up here in northern Canada).

Does that make more sense?


AH, so you are basically looking for a way to shortcut all the digits you have to dial…so that someone picks up the phone, dial 1-416-555-1212, then the system does all the extra digit dialing for the calling card provider and the pincodes etc, then passes that phone numbe ronto the calling card company right?


Thanks for clarifying my mud.

No worries!

I can work out how to do that, give me a few minutes here…just curious…do you have any kind of ‘high speed’ internet access there?

Yup, we have DSL from the local telco, Northwestel, which is pretty decent service, they offer the equivalent of lite, normal and fancy-schmancy high speed, and also the option to talk to a rep and have customized bandwitdh as the upload rate on the stock packages tops out at 512K. I’ve tested it and it’s a pretty accurate 5 meg down/512 k up.

I think the reason there isn’t voip-able service to get up here is that Northwestel doesn’t seem to play as nice as the other telcos in Canada, and the population up here is so marginal that it’s not a concern to Canadian regulators. I guess there is one exception and that’s Primus, but I guess they don’t do SIP and do some other wonky protocol that requires a hardware converter (or so I skimmed on another posting elsewhere).

Thanks for your help.

Ok, so yes you can make the system do exactly what you want, add in all the digits and the passcode, no problem. The problem is that i can’t quite figure out how to work in a pause or wait statementes between the 800#, the passcode, the accpetance of the password and the sending of the number that someone wants to dial.
That will take me a few hours…i’ll post a solution in the next 24 hours, its something i’ve been curious about anyway.
(maybe someone else will post something in the meantime that is better than what i can come up with)

Oh, and how were you planning on users connecting to your system for this service? Softphones? or did you want them to be able to use a regular phone line to dial into the pbx?

The users in the office will mostly be on IP SIP phones, haven’t decided which yet, and maybe a few softphones for roaming laptop users, conference rooms, etc.

Was also planning on having a T1 or two terminate into the server as well, as the phone system will serve a few businesses under the same umbrella. Total of about 50-75 phones at all locations internally, and I believe 20 local PSTN analog lines incoming…rough estimate.

Thanks for your help on this, much appreciated.

What you want to do is pretty typical with Asterisk isntallations. Get a PRI from the phone company with a bunch of DID’s. Works awsome. Really awsome.

It might be worth looking at trying a voip trunk as well. The beauty of A@H, you can setup the entire PBX wiht voicemail in like an hour on a computer. Its very easy for beginners. Also, if you get that far, try getting a voipjet account. Its IAX trunk, not normally blocked and works very well. (voipjet.com) Might be able to save a lot of money in LD charges. People (example) could dial 8+any NA number, or just limit it to Canadian numbers) and the all routes over the internet. I just like voipjet cause its easy to test with, since you can set up a $5 account with paypall or something. Anyway, i’ve said my peace on that! :smile:

You can also buy DID’s from Toronto, Calgary Vancouver etc and have them point to the IP address of your system in NWT and ring phones. Cheap too. Very cheap.

BTW, I’ll post something about your LD dialing…but yes, it can be done…it just requires a little bit of tweaking of the dialing system that Asterisk offers.

Super awesome, thanks for the tips. Look forward to your follow-up.

Another point to mention AFAIK you dont need to use a canadian SIP provider. There are multiple providers out there. Look at teliax.com voipjet.com

Still working on that pausing issue…have tested a couple of work arounds but nothing really easy to administer (IMHO) will post sunday night with results!
(if someone has a reasonable way of adding in Pauses and Waits in a dialplan, can you let us know?)

Just want to say that I use primus talk broadband (no asterisk) in Vancouver and LD calls to NWT are NOT free. I repeat… NOT free. meh.