Questions about upgrading from Panasonic PBX to Asterisk

Hello everyone.

I recently purchased a 24 room motel that uses a Panasonic KX-T123210 phone system. While it works, it is pretty outdated - and, more importantly, I don’t really know how to use it. Give me a GUI or web interface any day…but endlessly punching keys on a telephone? Yikes. :smile:

We currently have four land lines running into the system. Rooms may dial out, as well as dial each other. There’s no voicemail or anything like that.

I’d like to switch to VoIP telephone service to take advantage of affordable international calling plans. Most of my clientele is foreign. Does anyone know if it would be possible to connect VoIP lines to the Panasonic system? Just curious…

Now, Asterisk. While I’m not intimately familiar with the software, I’ve read a lot about it. How difficult would it be to switch from my Panasonic system to a box running Asterisk? Some other questions…

Can I use all of my existing telephone wiring?

Can Asterisk be programmed to provide multiple voicemail boxes per room (ie: two people sharing a room each have their own box)?

Can Asterisk block calls to certain countries (ie: the ones not included in the list of countries covered - for free - by my VoIP carrier)?

Assuming the above is not possible - or not desirable - how would I best bill my guests for calls made to non free/included numbers? Could I program the system to only keep track of these calls? Or to dump some kind of report with minute usage showing all the non-free numbers?

Anything else I should consider? Thanks in advance for any advice and suggestions offered.


Welcome to the forum!

First, asterisk by itself (as of 1.2 at least) doesn’t have a web interface, it is configured with .conf files (text files containing config data). 1.4 will apparently have a web interface of some kind. Until then people have bolted on web interfaces such as AMP/freepbx and the Trixbox project, which is a complete *-based PBX on a self install CD or VMware image.

Now for your questions-

  1. Yes you can connect VoIP lines to your panasonic system. You need devices called ATAs- Analog Telephony Adapters. An ATA is a small box with Ethernet on one end and 1 or 2 POTS analog ports (FXS- they Serve dialtone and voltage to a phone) on the other. The ATA registers via SIP to a provider or server and sends the calls through that.
    Most VoIP providers will supply you with an ATA. If you do or think you might ever use *, you will want a provider that does not FORCE you to use the ATA (many do, including Vonage). Letting you use your own device is usually called BYOD. Broadvoice, viatalk, and any wholesale company will support BYOD. To do this you will buy a few ATAs (which are often supplied at a low cost when purchased with service), and plug the Panasonic’s line ports into the ATAs instead of the phone lines.

  2. The difficulty will depend greatly on how complicated you want to get. If you want to simply provide dial-internal and dial-out calling, * can do it no problem with very little effort. If you want to do other things like bill people for calls they make, this will require a bit more doing but is still quite possible.

  3. I will assume your phones are wired with 1 or 2 pair analog wires. You can continue to use this wiring if you use analog phones. Using IP phones will require upgrading to Cat5 Ethernet wiring, and also installing switch ports for each phone. Also, your existing Panasonic phones may not be compatible with *. If this is the case you can get IP phones or use ‘dumb’ analog phones (the $20 ones from Radio Shack). Generally with * you pay anywhere from $50/port (cheap analog phones on ATA or Channel Bank ports) up to $350/port (top of the range IP phones on powered switches)

  4. Yes * can provide mailboxes in whatever configuration you want them to. However you will probably have to manually set this up each time a guest checks in/out. It may be possible to have * interface with whatever else is running your hotel and dynamically create/remove mailboxes on queues from the billing software. This will of course be harder.

  5. Yes. You (or maybe the carrier if you just get ATAs and no *) can block calls based on any number of factors, including destination country code.

  6. Yes, asterisk generates CDR (Call Detail Record) for every call made. Using a few scripts you can filter this by any number of features. You can also have * add flags to the CDR when the call is being made, for example wether to bill for it or not. Then you could display only the billable records. All of the displaying however is done with external scripts.

As for other things, you should consider how much you want your PBX integrated with everything else.
Assuming you rip out everything and replace it with *, I would first aim for getting it interfaced with your billing software to track calling usage and create/delete one (per room) mailbox when user checks in/out. Not being able to dial international (at all) can be a real drag as most hotels have this.

Currently, what kind of integration does the PBX have with your hotel billing software? Anything?