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VoIP Hardware: Giving a British Icon a 21st Century Makeover

Repurposing a 20th Century British classic for the new millennium. is pleased to welcome “VoIP Week” contributor Mark Williams, Director of Sales at Obihai Technology.

The GPO746 is loved by many – it’s hard to ignore the classic look and high quality construction of the original — but with most of us now using VoIP it is often left to sit there as an ornament and gather dust.  But we can give it a 21st century upgrade!

The GPO poses a few challenges for VoIP hardware enthusiasts. First, it requires a ring capacitor to drive the bells when it rings. Also, the GPO is a rotary dialer, which most modern ATAs don’t support. But where there is a will there is a way, and here I will offer detail on two approaches that can be taken to ready this classic for the world of IP.

The Easy Approach

The easiest way to get your classic phone to work with VoIP is to plug all the adapters inline, external to the phone. To convert the rotary dial clicks into DTMF you can use a Dialgizmo, a device that sits inline between the ATA and the phone. It works well, though it will occasionally detect the hook flash as a “1” and send the DTMF so you need to be careful when taking the handset off hook.

Along with the Dialgizmo you’ll need to find a ring capacitor. You can either purchase an inline ring capacitor from an online store, or you can repurpose a master socket if you have one lying around.

Finally you’ll need an ATA.

mw1-GPO746 plugged into a re-used master socket
The GPO746 plugged into a re-used master socket, which in turn in plugged into the Dialgizmo, which is plugged into an Obihai OBi202 ATA.

Using this simple conversion approach you can get your classic phone working over VoIP.  But you want a more elegant solution, I hear you say?

The Advanced Approach

You say you don’t fancy having a string of adapters connected to your classic phone? Well, if you are handy with a soldering iron, the Rotatone offers another method, an integrated solution, installed inside your GPO746.  And if you’re not handy with a soldering iron, don’t worry – they also have a service where you can send in your classic phone to have the Rotatone and a ring capacitor installed (after making a ham-fisted attempt at soldering — It’s been many years — I chose the send-in option).

The Rotatone is the black box on the left.  It is wired between the rotary dialer and the control board of the GPO746.
The Rotatone is the black box on the left. It is wired between the rotary dialer and the control board of the GPO746.

The Rotatone has the advantage of not suffering from hook switch triggering DTMF tones, and having the ring capacitor installed in the device also removes another item from the daisy chain between the phone and the ATA.

So how about we go a step further an install the ATA within our classic phone as well!

The OBi200 (and OBi300) ATA both fit perfectly between the hook switch of the GPO746.  If we remove the line cable from our phone we can wire this plug internally straight into the back of the ATA and route the power for the OBi via the line cable’s port.  Rather than drill into the case to create a hole for an Ethernet cable we can instead plug an OBiWiFi adapter into the back of the ATA to allow it to operate wirelessly.

Everything installed inside the GPO746.
Everything installed inside the GPO746.

We now have our WiFi-enabled GPO746 IP Phone, repurposed and ready for the 21st century.  And you can even take it a step further by installing an OBiBT USB adapter into the USB port.  To do this you’ll need to use a USB hub to allow plugging the OBiWiFi and OBiBT adaptors into the one port. If you can find a place to squeeze that in you will have a GPO746 that’s not only wireless but that can also pair with your mobile phone via Bluetooth.

So what are you waiting for?  Winter is just around the corner, and there are few better excuses for spending an afternoon converting your phone in a small room filled with solder fumes.  Best of luck!

Conversion Complete 1     Conversion Complete 2

Business voip

Provisioning, Cloud Management and Obihai

The name may be new, but you’ve probably provisioned, configured or used an IP phone or ATA over the years that Obihai’s core engineering team had a hand in developing.

Back in 1999 a company called Komodo released the first ever voice ATA.  The Komodo product quickly caught the attention of Cisco, the company was acquired and the Cisco ATA-186 quickly became ubiquitous in the emerging VoIP marketplace.  Soon after, Jan Fandrianto and Sam Sin started a new company, Sipura, where they further evolved mass market low-cost VoIP devices and provisioning.  The Sipura approach to secure, remote provisioning was quickly emulated across the industry, and Cisco acquired this business as well, after which the team further expanded the SPA product range before starting Obihai in 2010.  Since that time they have been working on a new generation of voice hardware, supported by an advanced cloud management platform, and are now working to expand into global markets.

With a new company came a new opportunity — to design a voice platform from the ground up, and to innovate based on the knowledge gained over the past decade.  First a new SIP stack had to be written, and Dr. Sin’s experience in writing the Komodo and Sipura SIP stacks ensured that this new stack would be feature-rich, expandable, and bullet-proof.  Obihai have even used its SIP stack in its WebRTC implementation using web sockets. Next came the development of the OBiTALK cloud management platform, which is unique in that it can be utilised for HTTPS-based remote device management and provisioning in a wide variety of fashions, depending on the service provider’s infrastructure and cloud capabilities.

Customers can leverage the OBiTALK portal in a variety of ways, depending on how the OBi devices reach the end user. For example, end customers can purchase their own hardware for use via the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) service within the portal, which allows the customer to choose and sign up for IP voice services via Obihai’s “Approved Service Provider” (ASP) program. This program allows ITSPs to offer their services for provision via OBiTALK with the user selecting and purchasing the voice services, and in turn the device automatically configures for the chosen ASP.  Once the ASPs services are added to the OBi device, the ASP can then check the status and change the configuration of their services on the device either via API into their own platform or via the ITSP view within the OBiTALK portal.

Manage ITSP Devices

For ITSPs, there are a number of ways to provision and manage devices.  A “Zero Touch” (ZT) approach is available, with the ITSP able to push XML-based profiles with smart adaption to the specified device. Traditional methods are available as well, including DHCP Option 66, TFTP, HTTP, and HTTPS. Profiles are sent securely to devices using HTTPS, Open SSL or by profile encryption using the OBCrypt tool.  Additionally, cloud-based provisioning, configuration and management can be obtained via the OBiTALK portal.  This approach allows the ITSP or their customer to purchase regular off-the-shelf Obihai devices and to add the device to the ITSP’s service by simply dialing a star code.  It also allows even smaller service providers — those without a provisioning infrastructure — to offer ZT or near-ZT services to their customers. For ITSPs with a deployed provisioning infrastructure, the OBiTALK portal can be used alongside as a technical support and inventory management tool, showing all OBi devices on the ITSP’s network, their status, location and also enabling the ITSP to browse to the device’s local admin page.  Additionally, all the functionality within OBiTALK can be accessed via API, allowing ITSPs to integrate the portal with their own systems.  The ability to provision even extends to Obihai’s range of USB accessories, the OBiWiFI Wifi adaptor, OBiBT Bluetooth adaptor and OBiLINE FXO adaptor can all be configured by the xml profile.

Today, as evidenced by Obihai’s ATAs, and IP phones, almost anyone can securely provision and manage their devices regardless of existing infrastructure.

VoIP Penguins Phone

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